Our sons have a running joke that each of them is the favourite and favoured one. A light-hearted jostling, because they know full well they are both treated alike and treasured for the unique individuals they are.
Acts 10:34-43 (CEV)
34 Peter then said:
Now I am certain that God treats all people alike. 35 God is pleased with everyone who worships him and does right, no matter what nation they come from. 36 This is the same message that God gave to the people of Israel, when he sent Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, to offer peace to them.
37 You surely know what happened everywhere in Judea. It all began in Galilee after John had told everyone to be baptized. 38 God gave the Holy Spirit and power to Jesus from Nazareth. He was with Jesus, as he went around doing good and healing everyone who was under the power of the devil. 39 We all saw what Jesus did both in Israel and in the city of Jerusalem.
Jesus was put to death on a cross. 40 But three days later, God raised him to life and let him be seen. 41 Not everyone saw him. He was seen only by us, who ate and drank with him after he was raised from death. We were the ones God chose to tell others about him.
42 God told us to announce clearly to the people that Jesus is the one he has chosen to judge the living and the dead. 43 Every one of the prophets has said that all who have faith in Jesus will have their sins forgiven in his name.
Peter is at pains to make it clear that he is sure that God treats everyone alike. God is pleased with anyone who worships him and does the right thing. Apart from that, it doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from, what they look like – God has no favourites.
This comes in the midst of his encounter with Cornelius, after his vision about who decides who and what is clean or unclean, so he is able to open his mind and heart to someone that he wouldn’t have. He could learn and share with people outside his comfort zone, people who until that point he would not have thought would have been able to know God, and certainly wouldn’t be able to teach him anything.
I sometimes think that one of the biggest problems we have is each trying to prove we are more special, more favoured than the next one. We can, if we are not careful, play a game of Christian one-upmanship. I’m more blessed than you are, God is working more here, God must love me more. This works in two different ways at the same time – it makes me feel better and makes the other seem inferior to me – both of which feed each other. Neither of which are good or necessary.
But why the need for the competition? Do we feel so bad about ourselves? The truth is God values us all. We are not all doing the same thing. We each have different gifts and callings, but none are any more or less important. There is room for all, and all are needed if the church is going to be a rounded picture of life. As long as we are doing the right thing, doing what God has asked of us and worshipping him, he is happy, he is pleased with us.
He doesn’t measure one against the other, he measures me only against what he has asked of me.
It is only Peter’s openness to God in the other person, rather than measuring that person against himself and his values, that allows him to walk the path God has called him to. A sobering fact and a challenge to me if I am going to walk the way of being God’s servant, someone who works for him.
I thank you Lord
that you treat every person alike.
Everyone is special to you,
we are each in our own way
you value our uniqueness
and you call us only
to be the person you ask of us.
I pray that you will help me
to remember that,
to hold tight to it,
to neither feel inferior,
or feel the need
to make someone else feel that way.
open my mind
and my heart,
to see you
and your possibilities
in everyone around,
that together we can learn
and not compete.
I’ve chosen this because of the last verse:
So let us learn
How to serve,
And in our lives
Each other’s needs
For it is Christ