Hunkered Down Devotion

Acts 10:34-46 (Voice)
Peter: 34 It is clear to me now that God plays no favorites, 35 that God accepts every person whatever his or her culture or ethnic background, that God welcomes all who revere Him and do right. 36 You already know that God sent a message to the people of Israel; it was a message of peace, peace through Jesus the Anointed—who is King of all people. 37 You know this message spread through Judea, beginning in Galilee where John called people to be ritually cleansed through baptism.[a] 38 You know God identified Jesus as the uniquely chosen One by pouring out the Holy Spirit on Him, by empowering Him. You know Jesus went through the land doing good for all and healing all who were suffering under the oppression of the evil one, for God was with Him. 39 My friends and I stand as witnesses to all Jesus did in the region of Judea and the city of Jerusalem. The people of our capital city killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, 40 but God raised Him up on the third day and made it possible for us to see Him. 41 Not everyone was granted this privilege, only those of us whom God chose as witnesses. We actually ate and drank with Him after His resurrection. 42 He told us to spread His message to everyone and to tell them that He is the One whom God has chosen to be Judge, to make a just assessment of all people—both living and dead. 43 All the prophets tell us about Him and assert that every person who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through His name.
44 Peter wasn’t planning to stop at this point, but the Holy Spirit suddenly interrupted and came upon all the people who were listening. 45-46 They began speaking in foreign languages (just as the Jewish disciples did on the Day of Pentecost), and their hearts overflowed in joyful praises to God. Peter’s friends from Joppa—all of them Jewish, all circumcised—were stunned to see that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on outsiders.

As a parent of four children, one of the questions I sometimes get asked – especially by the boys themselves – is: who is your favorite?  I have been asked this question so many times that I now have a stock response: It depends on the day!  While I try very hard to treat all of our children equitably, and I certainly don’t love any of them more than another, I know the boys don’t always feel that way.

As an only child, I had to learn that this is somewhat natural, and the usual scenario is that everyone thinks someone else is the favorite.  I think (I hope) this means we are doing something right.  The question of who is favored is not one that is limited to earthly parents, however.

If we were to ask this question of God, we might naturally look to scripture to help inform our answer.  In the pages of the Old Testament, we might think that the answer is clear: Yes, God has a favorite and it is the people of Israel.  While the language from the scriptures is ‘chosen’, we often hear that as favored or favorite.

The words, life, and ministry of Jesus Christ, however, give a much different response.  Jesus proclaims that God’s love is not just for some, but for all.  The Holy Spirit continues to bring this message of inclusion.  At the beginning of this passage from Acts, the Spirit speaks through Peter with an important and clear message that all of us need to both hear and believe: God doesn’t play favorites.  

For one of God’s chosen people to make this proclamation is extraordinary and can, truly, only be a result of the work and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Incredibly, even though the believers that were with Peter, would have not been surprised by what he said, and on some level at least, would have accepted and supported it, they clearly didn’t really, truly believe it.

Peter says, ‘God plays no favorites’ or maybe a better way to hear Peter’s words here might be: God has a favorite and each and every one of us are it.  And as he says this, the believers with him – all of them Israelites as well - nod along.  But then, when the Spirit moves powerfully and the Gentiles among them have a sort of Pentecost of their own, none of them can believe it.

They can’t believe it, because regardless of what they said, deep down, they really thought that they were the favorites.  I think, if we are willing to look honestly at ourselves, we can relate to this idea.  I think there is a common belief, often unspoken and running under the surface, among those of us that have been blessed to be American Christians.

This believe, that stems from the reality that we live in a great country that was founded by Christians on Christian principles – that sure, God loves everyone, but we must be the favorites.  I mean, we are Americans, after all.

The Jewish believers with Peter were confronted with undeniable proof of God’s equal love for everyone – even those that they considered other.  This left them, even in their shock, no choice but to accept and believe the truth because it was staring them in their face.

We may not get the kind of proof of God’s love for all that these disciples received.  Instead, we are called to live in a way that proclaims that truth to the world around us.

Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Thank you, God for making me your favorite.  Help me live in a way that reminds others that they are your favorite too.   Amen.

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