This morning I was reading in Acts 10 and 11 about Cornelius and Peter and, surprise, surprise, I was really struck by something. I was really challenged and convicted, and not to be obtuse in any way, but I hope to pass on this nugget to whoever will take the time to take it.
In Acts 10 Cornelius, a Roman, God-fearing centurion, has a vision where the angel of the Lord tells him to find Peter, because Peter has a message for him. He tells him where he can find Peter, and Cornelius sends his servants to go get Peter and have him deliver this message.
Before the servants arrive to ask Peter to come back with them, Peter is up on the roof praying and he realizes he's hungry. He "falls into a trance" (maybe because he was so hungry :p) and also sees a vision. In Peter's vision a sheet comes down full of animals that are ceremonially unclean for a Jew to eat. Peter refuses and God tells him not to call something unclean that God has called clean. This happens three times (Peter has a knack for stubbornness). While Peter was still thinking about what this vision meant, Cornelius' servants arrived and asked for Peter to go with them to their master, saying that he too had a vision.
So the next day Peter and Cornelius' servants walked back to Cornelius' house and Peter reminds them how unlawful it is for him to even be there in a Gentile's house, but that God doesn't want him to consider any person unclean, and he asks why Cornelius had him come to his house.
So, long story short, Peter shares the gospel with them, and they believe and are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is significant, because up to this point only Jews had become Christians. There was the Ethiopian eunuch but he was a Jew as well. When Peter returns to Jerusalem word has spread to the Jewish Christians there that Gentiles also believed and were saved. Some people had a problem with that, so Peter explains the visions and the whole tale to them and he ends his explanation with this: "If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?"
I really like this phrase and I've been thinking about it all day. "Who was I that I could stand in God's way?"
Now go back to the beginning of the story, (don't worry I won't retell it :p) Peter was basically told by God to go to Cornelius' house and share the gospel with him. Peter could have said "no", right? He could have been passive and figured that God would just find another way to reach Cornelius, but he viewed not doing what he should be doing as "standing in God's way". God's desire has always been to see everyone turn to him, and Peter saw clearly that not playing a part in doing what he was commissioned to do was "standing in God's way". For him there was no middle ground, no coasting in apathy that's kind of okay with God.
You can probably see the parallels starting to line up. And, again, I don't want to come across the wrong way. Here's what I'm NOT saying: "Everyone needs to be a tribal missionary or you're standing in God's way." No. No. No.
Like Peter we also have been commissioned to take the gospel to people who haven't heard it. We've been commissioned to take it to the ends of the earth. As a church we have been very passive as though this task was just going to accomplish itself. We vegetate in front of our TV screens like it was a part time job, willingly ignorant of the spiritual realities of the globe we inhabit, fearing the opportunities God may have for us. Our apathy is sickening; it stinks (almost literally).
Nearly a third of earth's population is isolated from the gospel by a language barrier not to mention physical, geographic isolation from other Christians. It's our (the global church) job to see this done. This is our commission and as a global church, as a national church, as a local church body, as a small group, as individual Christians.
Let's not stand in God's way.