Tuesday, January 8
Plot Twist to Generosity
There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. About three in the afternoon he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, ‘Cornelius.’ Staring at him in awe, he said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ The angel told him, ‘Your prayers and your acts of charity have ascended as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa and call for Simon, who is also named Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.' When the angel who spoke to him had gone, he called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, who was one of those who attended him. After explaining everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the roof about noon. He became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ ‘No, Lord!’ Peter said. ‘For I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean.’ Again, a second time, the voice said to him, ‘What God has made clean, do not call impure.’
I can almost see a split screen movie taking place here. On one side we find Cornelius: a Gentile who had not yet come to faith in Christ but who was committed to prayer and generous acts of charity, all of which were capturing God’s attention. On the other side we see Peter, safely tucked away in his Jewish friend’s home, having his kosher meal prepared for him.
Then flashes the simultaneous scene where God speaks to both men. He tells Cornelius that his generosity has caught His eye and to send for a Jew named Peter who will tell him of Whom he seeks. Meanwhile on the other side, God is convicting Peter of his prejudice, and even stinginess, of the grace He freely gives to all. He commands him to go to the home of the Gentile who is coming to meet him. We see both men obey the instructions they are given.
Now the movie becomes one frame where Peter walks into a Gentile home, shares the free and generous gift of salvation, and an entire household believes and is baptized with the Holy Spirit! Talk about a climax!
What valuable lessons did both men learn through this account? I’d say Cornelius learned that charity and generosity do find favor with God and catch the attention of heaven. On the other hand, Peter learned that his close-mindedness was not the plan for the Gospel and that God is cross-culturally generous with His gift.
Jesus, perhaps we could learn to be more generous with grace toward others just as You have been generous with us. We know You lavish Your grace upon us, so help us to be like You. And thank You for Your grace. It is way more life changing than a split screen movie. Amen.