Sermon in a nutshell: Acts 10:17-35 “God does not show favoritism.”

Sermon in a nutshell: Acts 10:17-35 “God does not show favoritism.”
When I perform either a memorial or funeral service, I often meet someone who says to me that s/he was the “favorite child” of the deceased. Many times, however, I find out that all the children of the deceased think that way also. The truth is that their parents loved all their children with the same love, the same unconditional love. Parents may express their love in different ways to different children because everybody has different needs and ways to respond to the same love. It is, therefore, a parenting skill to make every child feel special. In the end, each child feels that s/he is the “favorite child”.
God is our Father. God has the same issue that all parents have. All of God’s children seek God’s attention. You can imagine how busy God is when He answers prayers from all over the world. We 49ers fans prayed for our victory at the Super Bowl. We had confidence that we were God’s favorite children.
In the Bible, we meet such people also. Peter and his people, the Jewish people, thought that God had chosen them as His favorite children. They believed that whatever they did, God would love them. They believed in the invincibility of the Jerusalem Temple, the everlasting promise for the Davidic Kingdom, and the privilege of the Jewish people in the universe. Even though the prophets kept warning the Jewish community, saying that if they did not follow God’s ways they would be destroyed, the Jewish community simply ignored those oracles. They believed that God’s love was unconditional and God’s promise was not a failing one. So, they could not imagine that God would give up on them or let them die.
In this sense, the Babylonian Exile in 587 BC was a national shock and disaster not only for their nation but also for their psyche. They were not sure any more about God’s power and love. They were not certain whether God existed as they had believed. Many people deserted their faith in YHWH and accepted the pagan gods as their new divine beings.
However, the mainline orthodox Jewish response was as follows: God still loves us. God punished us because of our sins but when we repent our sins and change our behaviors, God will restore our nation, our glory, and our status once again. We will be God’s favorite among all the nations again!
This mainline orthodox belief is half true and half false. Yes, God still loves the Jewish people. Yes, God punished them because of their sins. Yes, when they repent their sins and change their behaviors God will restore their nation. However, God will not show favoritism toward the Jewish people! That part is wrong! That is the most uncomfortable truth that the Jewish people have had to accept. Some do not yet accept the truth today even though Jesus died and was resurrected for all the peoples in the world.
That is what Peter found out and confessed today in the Bible! “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believed in him shall not perish but have eternal life!” (John 3:16). Peter also says in the Bible, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right!” (Acts 10:34-35).
The only two criteria that God uses are these: fearing God (Praise and worship God in the church) and doing what is right (Living an ethical life and performing social justice in the community). God does not take into consideration race, sex, age or any other criteria! That was scandalous and shocking news to the orthodox Jewish man, Peter! However Peter accepted that new reality and decided to baptize Cornelius! Baptism means to be a member of the new community where people become one family in Jesus. Peter decided to go beyond his traditional belief based on the Holy Book and holy tradition. How could he do that?
He had experienced his limits and ignorance. Then, when he met the risen Jesus, he had to acknowledge that all he knew and believed was limited. He could not imagine that the master who had been crucified could be alive again. He denied Jesus three times because he thought that this life on earth was all he had. Now he knew that he was wrong. Now he knew that he could be wrong this time again. Now he decided to trust and obey God’s will.
Brothers and sisters! Have you already made your mind up not to share the Gospel with your friends? Do you feel that a certain group of people should not come to our church to become God’s children? Have you had a hard time accepting others because of your beliefs? I do not want you to change your beliefs and life styles. I want us to simply accept this fact that we do not know everything and we can be wrong this time. Then just trust and obey God! Share Jesus with others. God may have already opened their hearts to the Good News. They may just need to hear it from us! Would you be a messenger of God’s love and grace?
1. Who do you think is Cornelius in your neighborhood?
2. What makes you hesitate to talk to this person about Jesus?

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