Mission and Conversion
Dear God, shine the light of Your face upon me and make me a light for You in the world.
Read Acts 10:23-33
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
“The glory of God is a human being who is fully alive” (Irenaeus, A.D. 130-202). Jesus is the one who makes us fully alive.
The third scene in Luke’s narrative has Peter traveling to Caesarea and meeting Cornelius face-to-face. This is a turning point in the story of the early Jesus movement. The change demanded of Peter to enable him to be in the vanguard of the advancing kingdom amounted to something like a second conversion. He himself admits as much when he confesses that he needed divine revelation to enable him to take this step (28, a statement to be repeated in v. 34). Try to imagine the apostle’s astonishment at the sights that met his eyes: the warmth of the centurion’s welcome; the house of a privileged member of the Roman elite, large enough to accommodate “a large gathering of people” (27); and above all, the eager anticipation of an expectant Gentile audience ready to “listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us” (33).
However, before the Gospel can be preached there are potential misunderstandings to be cleared up. When Cornelius falls at Peter’s feet in reverence, this may symbolize nothing more than respect and gratitude, but it might represent an act of worship. Peter is aware of pagan myths relating visits by the gods in the form of men (See Acts 14:11-15) so, to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding, he tells his host to stand up: “I am only human myself” (26).
Peter’s statement reflects the Hebrew belief in the distance between God and human beings, and the conviction that worship must be given to God alone. But we may also read this sentence in a different way: if Peter’s declaration involves the denial of divinity, it also affirms genuine humanity. The one is as important as the other, and sometimes what the recipients of Christian mission most need to know is that its agents are indeed only, but fully, human.
Why might non-Christians regard believers as not really “normal” human beings? What might be needed to convince them otherwise?
Heavenly Father, I am so grateful that I can echo the words of Paul who could say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).