I’m old enough to remember November 1989 and the events leading up to and surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a influential moment in my life. Those November days marked the end of the separation between East and West Berlin and the cessation of the Cold War. People from all over the world celebrated that this symbol of fear was now rubble.
In this passage from Acts 10, we see a symbolic wall coming down between Peter, the Apostles, and the Gentiles. The wall was a separation between those who could be part of the fellowship of believers and who could not. According to the laws of the time, anyone who was not born into the Jewish faith were considered Gentiles and were outside of God’s love and promise. They were separated from the community and only allowed in if they went through a long process.
Peter was among those who promoted this separation. He believe that the church he was promoting, that of Jesus Christ, would continue in its separating of those of Jewish heritage and those who were Gentile. You can imagine his shock when he was told by the Lord to no longer consider anything God had made as unclean. Just imagine, then, his reaction when Peter was told to visit Cornelius, a Roman solider, and hear of his faith in God.
What we have in Acts 10 is a story of walls of separation, barriers, coming down. No longer would the church consider anyone unworthy to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ simply because of their heritage or nationality. All people would be welcomed to experience the grace and hope of Christ. In all truth, Acts 10 is in response to Jesus’ words in Acts 1. There he tells the Disciples to share the Good News to all the world. This mission could only be accomplished once the barriers that separated the church from the world were destroyed.
This is a powerful message and reminder for us. So often, we have the habit of creating boundaries and barriers between the message of Jesus Christ and the people whom we are trying to witness. We say you are only welcomed in our communities of faith if you look a certain way, sing the same songs, read from the same Bible translation, dress in similar clothes, make the same amount of money, drive similar cars, live in decent homes, come from good families, or go to the same schools as our children. Too often we recreate the barriers that Christ’s love has broken down.
What if we were no longer in the business of building barriers? What if we truly meant that all were welcomed in our church? What would be different about our communities? What would be different about us?
My hope and prayer is that we will go out and share the good news that Christ’s love is for all people.