COMMUNITY OF FAITH
Every community has an identity. There are the hipsters, the artists, the sports people, the gamers, the nerds, and the list goes on but with every group there is a set of rules that are usually unspoken that identify that group. This is to say, that if you don’t like games than you most likely wouldn’t hang around the gamers because you don’t share in their views or hobbies. We tend to group up into small communities or cliques depending upon shared views and desires and it is the same way with the church but the question we must ask ourselves is why are we gathering? What is the real reason of our community being together?
The church has the potential of being the most diverse group of people yet what draws both the poor and rich to be in the same room that may also have rows of different ethnic people? It is simply Jesus. When Jesus made a way through his death and resurrection, what changed within the community of God was that the primary purpose of the gathering and identity of the people will be based upon faith in Jesus. When we gather in Jesus, the background and culture is not the main reason why you are there but you are there because of your faith in Jesus! We are not here to promote one culture over the other though we celebrate the uniqueness of each culture but the fact is that we now gather because we are all now part of the main Kingdom culture with Jesus being the center.
Today’s passage shows that we are a community based on faith in Jesus and we must remind ourselves that we gather for no other purpose other than to glorify Him and be identified as His disciples.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.
Cornelius is a gentile (anyone that is not a Jew) and a Roman officer. In the eyes of a Jewish person, he would be considered the enemy. Yet there is something different about this man than any other Roman officer, which are the following:
He is a devout man that feared God with his household
He gave alms, which means he gave money to the poor
Prayed continually to God
He is not the norm but what this shows us that God can breakthrough norms and expectations of people! This man is not saved yet but he is open to God and is exercising faith to seek Him as he exposed to God through Judaism. We see in this chapter that God sees a person’s background and can transform them to start living in the Kingdom culture. The Christian life is about knowing the background and upbringing that you lived before Christ and slowly but surely starting to live life with God’s perspective. That your life begins to change to reflect more of who God is and what he values over what you used to live for. Again as I have been proclaiming for the longest time, the way you know the ways of God is by seeking Him through His word, prayer, and gathering in the church community.
3 About the ninth hour of the day[a] he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God
Remember Cornelius has faith to seek God but has yet to be saved but his faith reminds us that when we seek God in faith regardless of our condition, that God will draw near to us. This is the love, grace, and promise of God where he honors those who seek Him regardless of circumstance and I know a lot of times we want to “feel” him or hear from him. I want to encourage you that His silence does not mean His absence! Keep seeking him for you are preparing yourself for the day when He does encounter you in a mighty way like He did with Cornelius.
“Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”
His actions and words have been noticed by God and God in His timing is now going to use that foundation of faith to move in a historic way through Cornelius.
One of the definitions of memorial is that it is a written statement of facts that are presented to a sovereign ruling body. So what does it mean that Cornelius has made a memorial before God? Cornelius’ faith actions were presented before God and God acknowledged them so the point is that all that we do for God will be known by God regardless if people on earth know it all. Don’t do things for the eyes of people but do things for the eyes of God for He sees all. Whether people praise you or not for your acts of faith, you are not doing it for them but you are doing it for God. If you live off the praises of people than you will also die by the silence of people.
His faith actions opened up doors for encounter. So what we do daily will either open the door for God to move in our lives or close it. What closes the door to God?
When we choose to not seek Him
When we choose to sin rather than obey God
When we live in the ways the world lives and not the ways that God wants us to live.
10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
V.12, (All kinds of unclean animals) These were the forbidden food that any Jewish person could not eat and showed that you followed God but these were the foods that the Gentiles ate regularly.
V.13-14, God tells Peter who is a Jew, to kill and eat to which Peter responds with a no because he is being a faithful Jew. His thinking process is telling him that he will obey the law and not eat like a Gentile. In this moment Peter is being challenged to either obey what he knew or obey what God was saying to him directly.
V.15, “What God has made clean do not call common.” When God made all who call upon His name clean He made them holy. The word holy means “set apart,” which is the opposite of common. What is God trying to tell Peter through this vision? God was telling him that God has cleansed all foods and that as He is going to start including the Gentiles to be part of the community of God because food is very much tied to the identity of a culture. What God was saying to Peter is that He is accepting all people who call upon His name by faith and the one that is going to practically happen is through fellowship with other cultures through eating. There is something about eating together that bonds people together and if the disciples still couldn’t eat the foods of other nations because they were considered unclean, it not only will hinder the ability to connect with other people but also reject the idea that it will not be so much about our ethnicity or background that determines the identity of our community but faith in Jesus Christ.
What happened here? The gentiles are now part of the community of God. In our time, we must ask ourselves if we are open to God in breaking up our ethnic boundaries and allowing God to move in a multi-cultural dimension? Are we still ministering in “Jerusalem” in that we are only ministering to people of our own ethnicity and people that are similar to us or are we going to open ourselves to ministering to everyone that hungers for God’s presence?
Regardless of background, will it be faith in Jesus as the reason we gather or is it because (for my context) we are all Korean? Now there is nothing wrong if your community is mostly your ethnicity because that is only natural but are we gathering because of our ethnicity or gathering for Christ because if we gather for Christ than we are open to all backgrounds as long as it is for the Lord.
Today let us be aware and re-shift the reason why we gather because we should only gather because we all have faith in Jesus.