No partiality


Acts 10

Baptismal font, Magdeburg

34 Peter began to speak to Cornelius and his household: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,

Is there a more difficult truth in the scripture?  Or one more wonderful?  The doctrines of the trinity and two-natures of Christ are mind boggling, but they puzzle the mind not the human spirit.  We are partisan through and through.  Partisan about politics.  Partisan about religion.  Partisan about football and colleges and whether rhythmic gymnastics is a sport.  We divide the world into parties at every turn.  Liberal and Conservative.  Black and white.  Rich and poor.  Sunni and Shia.  Arab and non-Arab.  Fox News and MSNBC.  Born again and liberation theology.  Global warming and not.  We add God’s name to all of these.

In divorce, friends and family must choose which side.  We divide them up like dividing the pots and pans and Christmas decorations.  And we are not adverse to adding God’s name, here, either.

It is very hard for us to imagine that God shows no partiality.  We want God on our side.  It just doesn’t work like that.  God shows no partiality.  The only meaningful question is whether we are on God’s side.

God cares for all.  Judean and Greek alike, male and female, slave and free.  Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, a leader in the occupying army, has sent for Peter to hear what he has to say.  Why should Peter share the message of Christ with one of those who tortured him and threw dice for his clothing?  Why should Peter share the message with those who have trampled his country, bled its riches, appointed its corrupt leaders?  Why should Peter share the message with an enemy?

Because God shows no partiality.  The distinctions that matter so much to us mean nothing to God.  He is as concerned about the poor child in Sudan as the children of our parish.  We may not be, but God is.  And, as we said, the only meaningful question is whether we are on God’s side.

Jesus wasn’t expressing a noble ideal when he talked about loving your enemies.  He was expressing a foundational truth of the universe, something in the very being of God through whom all things exist.  And when Jesus forgives the Roman soldiers from the cross he is living this truth.

We are pretty free with our hatred of enemies real and imagined.  Rush Limbaugh makes a fortune from it.  He’s selling it to someone.  It just has nothing to do with the God of Jesus and Peter who shows no partiality.

But let us not lose the sweetness of this declaration that God shows no partiality. He loves us as much as any other – and any other as much as us.  Not that this dilutes his love for us.  It just makes clear how great the ocean of God’s love is – and how great the sea of his sorrow for what has become of the creatures he made in his own image.

Fortunately, he has come to wash the world in a baptism that puts our fallen nature to death and gives birth to a new nature, a new spirit, a new life, a new love, a new ability to see as God sees.

And when we lose track of all this, we go back to run through the sprinklers and remember.


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