There are a lot of things going on in the amazing story of Peter and Cornelius - the Holy Spirit unmistakably removing barriers in order for more people to know Jesus and real salvation, angels delivering messages, obedience amidst questioning, and a vision that includes edible reptiles.
What stood out most to me was how Cornelius, the centurion, caught the attention of God because he was essentially walking integrity; a very good, open-handed, God-worshipping person with a positive influence on family and friends. The passage mentions Cornelius earning this special attention a few times, and leads me to wonder what God might notice about our lives. What may stand out about the way we spend our time and resources (or not), and what eye-catching threads run through our relationships and life of faith? How do we respond to opportunities to open our homes and communities to love neighbours as ourselves or receive gifts that could appear unusual at first? Peter and Cornelius both seem to step outside their comfort zones or typical habits to follow God’s leading, and the world was never the same.
Henri Nouwen is one of my favourite writers. In a book he co-authored, it says, "One of the most powerful experiences in a life of compassion is the expansion of our hearts into a world-embracing space of healing from which no one is excluded."* God’s redeeming love is a gift for all - the people close to us, those who seem to have it all together as much as those who clearly don’t, those who seem “weird” or may even be enemies, and the countless we’ll never meet. John 3:16 is a well-known verse for a reason. It is exciting to read Acts and see some of how God’s plans play out. I hope we all grow in compassion and service to those near and far as we trust and obey Jesus far more than our assumptions about what or who is “in” or “out”.
Back to Cornelius briefly. God didn’t leave him alone with his impressive morality or refined practices since these good things didn’t eliminate his need for a Saviour. When Peter came to meet the centurion, Cornelius acknowledged that they were in God’s presence. Read on in Acts 10 to find out what happens next. God’s hand and the Holy Spirit were the forces behind the Gospel of the risen Jesus coming to all people then, and as we come up to Easter may you sense God’s saving grace in your world, too.
*Nouwen, Henri J.M., Donald P. McNeill, Douglas A. Morrison: Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life. (Random House Canada, 2006), 107.