For centuries, the Israelite people had enjoyed a special status—a unique relationship with God. They were the chosen people, the ones able to enjoy the presence and direction of God like no one else. For generations, they received promises of redemption, salvation, an eternity with Him…
So it’s no wonder that, when the church of Jesus Christ spread to the Gentiles, some Jews felt possessive and judgmental towards the “outsiders.” In the first century A.D., the church fathers had to recalibrate how these new disciples saw one another. Not only was it an issue of Jew vs. Gentile; it was also man vs. woman, slave vs. master, and a host of other dichotomies. The people of God were, for the first time, an international, multi-generational body…but they had to learn how to be one in Christ.
Peter spoke to the church in Acts 10:34-36 on this issue. He said, “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. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” What was the basis of God approaching everyone equally? That we’ve all sinned! That we’re all in need of salvation.
The Jews weren’t any worthier just because they had the commandments, the law; likewise, the Gentiles weren’t holier than the Jews. Men weren’t more worthy than women; masters weren’t closer to God than slaves. Each of us has sinned against God. Ecclesiastes 7:20 echoes this truth: “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”
Jesus never offered salvation to a worthy, perfect person. Instead, He loved and offered salvation to everyone—Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and women. He ate with both sinners and those who saw themselves as righteous; He talked with men and women alike; He visited leper colonies and noble’s estates.
If Jesus showed no partiality, what’s our excuse? What people groups have we avoided because of prejudice, self-righteousness, or assumption? Who do we need to move toward with the good news of the gospel? Towards whom have we shown partiality, and how can we take the first steps in surrendering our hearts and minds to God in this area?
Dr. Derek Grier