August 26 I Thursday
1 Corinthians 8
“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.”
For some of us, there are deep roots to our biases, where God has to do some heart surgery beneath the surface to bring individuals together and realize the oneness that God desires. This was the case for Cornelius and Peter; their story is recorded in Acts 10.
Cornelius was a Roman centurion living in Caesarea Maritima, located by the Mediterranean Sea. The city was rebuilt by Herod the Great during the time of Jesus. Caesarea was dedicated to Caesar Augustus. It was the center for Roman administration in the province of Palestine and served as a showpiece of Roman culture. It had a large temple dedicated to Caesar, a huge amphitheater and a massive harbour for trade. The population of that city was more Gentiles than Jews. In the New Testament times, Jews despised the Roman occupation. The Romans were viewed as godless Gentiles, pagans to the New Testament Jewish culture. They were outside of God’s covenant relationship that Israel enjoyed. The Romans conducted capital punishment all the time. They would line the road with crucifixes. In fact, Josephus, an early church historian, reported that in 66 A.D., the animosity between Jews and Gentiles in Caesarea grew so strong that the entire population of Jews in that city, about 22,000 people, were put to death. Cornelius was part of a system of government that had great hostility towards Jewish people.
From the above description, we may conceive Cornelius as an enemy of the Jews. Yet, Acts 10:2 tell us, “[Cornelius] and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Contrary to the stereotypical Roman, Cornelius was a God-fearing man who was devout and generous.
One day, while Cornelius was praying around three in the afternoon, an angel appeared to him and said, “Cornelius! Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea” (Acts 10:3-6). Immediately, Cornelius sent two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants to find Peter in Joppa, which was about 35 miles away.
Peter was a devout Jew and he was about to find three Gentiles knocking on his door. What would we do if we were in Peter’s shoes with our enemy at our door? Would we choose to welcome them, despite what our culture tells us, or would we follow our cultural bias and reject them?
Prayer: Loving God, I ask for Your love and kindness to help me go against the flow of cultural biases and welcome those who are different from me. Thank You, God.