Focal Passage: Acts 10:9-15, 22-23, 28-29a, 34-36
One day young John Woolman was throwing rocks at a robin’s nest. Surprisingly, one of his tosses hit the mother robin, killing her. Realizing the baby robins were helpless without their mother, John became grief stricken. He vowed that he would not knowingly mistreat another being. John was a Quaker from New Jersey.
Over the course of his 52 years he would be a farmer, a merchant, an author, and a preacher. He would travel the Atlantic seaboard, England, and Ireland, and he would always preach the message of equality and freedom of all peoples, including native Americans and black slaves. Of note to North Carolinians, in 1746 he traveled with Isaac Andrews 1,500 miles in three months, going as far south as North Carolina. As one might imagine, preaching against slavery was controversial. Even among Christians, few truly believed all men and women were equal. In fact, it wasn’t until after John’s death that the Quaker’s (Society of Friends) petitioned Congress for the abolition of slavery. John sought to model his life after Jesus. He would only wear undyed clothing because slave labor was used in the process of dying clothes.
In today’s text we have the example of Simon Peter, who also was struggling with the issue of racial inequality. He had been raised to believe that circumcised Jews were superior, even in God’s eyes, to uncircumcised Gentiles. Although he had watched Jesus heal and save Samaritans and Gentiles, and had listened to many parables and sermons delivered by Jesus on the subjects of compassion, equality and love, Peter had never quite reconciled the issue in his own mind and spirit.
Enter Cornelius. He was a Roman leader, a God-fearing man who had a proven track-record of generosity to Jews (v. 22). An angel told him to send for Peter. God would bring them together, and God would reveal that He has no favorites, that all who fear Him and live righteously as followers of Jesus Christ are His children (v. 34-36).