Have you noticed how easy it is to offend people these days? There seems to be such an overt need to accept and to be accepted that we go overboard with the “correctness” of our words and behavior lest we hurt anyone’s feelings at any time. Now, being accepting of others is a good thing, but is it the most important thing? Should we willingly lay all other principles and standards upon the altar of mutual acceptance? Are we compelled to accept the world the way it is without regard to the good we have gleaned from the way it was? How did Jesus do it? He certainly spent time with the sinners of his day but was it at the cost of higher principles? Did Jesus actually “hang out” with sinners? Was his time with them to make them feel good or accepted? What is God’s role in all of this? If we want a relationship with God, does He accept us as we are or is there more to it?
Most of us really don’t like ourselves. We are too tall or short, too fat or thin, too reserved or too lazy. We don’t like ourselves because we don’t think before we act or we think too much and don’t act at all. We don’t like ourselves because we are not attractive enough or we don’t have enough charisma or we are too lonely or we run away from our problems. Maybe we think we are too forward and forceful or too confrontational or maybe we think we are too analytical, too self-conscious or just plain wimpy! Whatever the case, we seem to be unhappy with ourselves, which brings us to the question – as a Christian aren’t we supposed to not like ourselves so we can be more like Jesus? So, shouldn’t we be happy in our unhappiness? Let’s stop already! Too many questions – let's find some answers!
A few weeks ago we began to tell the story of the dramatic events that led up to the conversion of the Centurion Cornelius to Christianity. Because the expansion of Christianity to Gentiles was such a radical shift in God’s methods, radical measures had to be taken! Today we will finish the story and see how its conclusion would change the history of Christian faith by the inclusion of you and me!
Sometimes things need to change. When there is a great plan in progress, the need for great change is likely to be a part of that plan. Since Adam’s fall from grace, God’s plan for man’s redemption has been punctuated by changes, including the great Flood which ended the old world, the calling of Abraham which began the age of the Patriarchs, and the death of Jacob which ushered in the age of Jewish favor. Each change had a distinct purpose. Today’s story about the conversion of Cornelius signaled that another change was on the horizon – a change that would be played out through the experiences of the Apostle Peter and Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. God’s plan was progressing and great change was necessary. But why Cornelius? Why a soldier?