GET ACQUAINTED: Growing up, who were you told not to associate with?
SCRIPTURE: (Acts 10:1-23 )
Open your time together with prayer. NOTE: This is only a guide! Feel free to select the points you want to discuss and adapt them to your needs.
This story is about a revelation made to Peter when the church was still young. In orthodox Judaism during this time, food was considered “unclean” if it was from certain animals. In the same way, certain people were “religiously unacceptable” – in particular Gentiles, people who were foreigners and not raised in the Jewish religious tradition. Peter found that, in Christ, this was going to change.
Part of the problem was that Peter inherited a strong prejudice that went back to Abraham. We could say it was generational. That prejudice was demonstrated in the life of Jonah, another Jew who God asked to go to witness to the Gentiles, and who actually got angry with God when the Ninevites repented and escaped judgment. The traditionally religious Jews called Gentiles goyim (“the nations”) and spat that word out with extreme disgust. This attitude even spread through the Hebrew-Christian community.
This was a big problem! Jesus had commissioned His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” His final words commanded them to be witnesses “... in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth …” (Acts 1:8 ). But somehow as they ran this through their Jewish filter, they missed the point. Again, this was a problem because, after Calvary, the movement known as “the Way” still remained distinctly Jewish.
With Peter, despite all of his love and devotion for Christ, his inherited, regrettable attitude could have been the end of his ministry to the Gentiles and could have shrunk Christianity to no more than just another sect of Judaism. God couldn’t allow that, so he began to “help” Peter develop a right attitude toward the goyim - the world - the whole world. This text has a lot to say to us, as it did to Peter and the Apostles. We need to listen to what God is telling us through Peter because the stakes are just as high today. How we look at the people around us is crucial.
- What stands out to you about this Bible passage?
- Why do you think this story is in the Bible?
- What does this story say to you about following Christ?
- What kind of walls are there between yourself and others? (i.e., racial, religious, economic, denominational, moral, political)? Do they need to come down? If so, how will you bring them down?
Personal Application and Commitment: C.S. Lewis was quoted as saying, “Next to the blessed sacrament, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Jesus was once approached by the religious elitists and asked, “‘36 Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 37And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:36-40 ) If God gave you a vision about your attitudes, and in particular your attitude toward other people who are different than you, what would He tell you? What would He ask you to do about your attitude?