Sunday October 7, 2018 | Greg Boyd
"So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Hospitality has a unique meaning and application in the Kingdom of God. In this message, Greg continues our Kingdom hospitality series exploring Peter’s revelation in Acts 10 of who’s in and who’s out of the Kingdom. Through Christ, God has offered a giant bear hug to humanity with an invitation that all are welcome to enter. As followers of Jesus, this should be our primary mode of operation when it comes to interacting with strangers. We present what we have in an authentic way, we ask what would be helpful to those in need, and we always see hospitality in a reciprocal manner.
Acts 10 recounts Peter’s revelation from God that the gospel is to be extended to the gentiles. The story picks up about 5 years after Jesus gave the great commission to go and make disciples of all nations and baptize them to usher them in to the Kingdom. Instead of venturing out, we find Peter and the disciples still primarily in and around Jerusalem. There was a roman centurion named Cornelius that was known to be a Godly man who was told by an angel to come and find Peter and find out what he has to say. At the same time, Peter had received a revelation three times from God where he is told to go kill and eat animals the Old Testament had said were unclean. Just as the 3 people from Cornelius’s party arrive, Peter is understanding the revelation to be an indication that there should be no clean and unclean distinctions among people, and the racism that has prevented the Jews from sharing the gospel with the gentiles should be done away with. This is a great picture of how God influences us to change in ways that are representative of the Kingdom and actually in our own best interest. He nudges. He doesn’t coerce.
Peter goes on to invite the three gentiles in to the Jewish home that he himself is a guest in. This is an incredible gesture given the level of structural, cultural, and religious distance that had accumulated between the Jewish and gentile communities. It’s also interesting to note how little the small peasant home that already had guests would have had to offer the new guests from Cornelius’s group. In this lack of resources and focusing on the humanness of the guests, we see the first Kingdom hospitality principle from this story in Acts:
It’s not about impressing your guests or putting forward your best. Those barriers to entry will only seek to prevent Kingdom hospitality. It’s rather a genuine recognition and offering of what is real and authentic here and now. Invite someone in to your life as it is, not as you wish it was. Share regardless of how much you have to share. Share the real you.
As the story goes on, Peter is seeing more and more how the cross has destroyed the dividing line between the distinctions he was making to separate himself from others. In that moment, Peter pauses and then asks Cornelius why he sent for him. In this moment we see the second principle of Kingdom hospitality highlighted:
Rather, attentively ask and listen to the needs of the stranger or community you’re trying to be hospitable to. A helpful documentary that highlights this problem is called Poverty, Inc. Additionally, a book that delves in to this idea is called “When Helping Hurts,” by by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett.
In the last section of the story in Acts 10, Peter starts preaching at Cornelius’s house and the Spirit of God falls on the gentiles. Peter baptizes them to welcome them in to the community. At this point Cornelius asks Peter if he and his guests would like to stay a few more days. Given all the cultural and religious shock Peter and his Jewish guests must have been in, it would have been very understandable for them to decline the invitation, understand the Gospel is for the gentiles too, but still choose to go their separate way. Instead, we see them embody the third principle of Kingdom hospitality presented here in that they recognize:
For many people, giving help and hospitality is way easier than receiving it. It can make us feel weak and needy. This idea that I have something to give to you can make me feel good and important, and ultimately can serve to put me above you. But this is antithetical to the Kingdom Jesus established by destroying the dividing lines between us on the cross. It turns out some of our greatest growth and blessing happens when we’re out of our comfort zone and learning to depend on other people. God wants you to welcome the stranger, and wants the stranger to welcome you.