~ Acts 10:22
The boundaries of Peter's faith were about to be stretched and expanded. Roused from a most unusual vision and a dialogue with heaven, Peter stood before a trio of gentiles. Perplexed, he listened. An angel had given their boss, Cornelius, Peter's address and had sent for him. "You are to come with us to Caesarea." They said.
Peter was thoroughly Jewish. Growing up in a tight community of Hebrews, he followed the religious customs passed down to him (he even took time to enlighten Jesus on that fact), and his father, Zebedee, taught him and his brother, Andrew, the family business of harvesting the sea. As a fisherman his days were spent on or around the edges of the Sea of Galilee. Then one day, Christ said, "Follow me." Peter, along with his brother became landlubbers and fishers of men.
So far, Peter had been casting the net of his new-found faith in familiar waters--to Jews only. Now he would set sail into an ocean of humanity that for his entire life he had avoided. Jesus called him to a risk and a spiritual leap into the unknown. Amid an entourage of his friends and complete strangers he left Joppa. A Gentile household, led by a sword-bearing centurion, would be his audience for the telling of the gospel. The fisherman had to have felt uneasy. Recollections of the incident during Christs' arrest had convinced him he was not a swordsman. But he went, and that was what mattered.
For us contemporary Christ-followers, we are living in a day of decision. Will we, or will we not, be stretched? There is a growing distinction between those who follow the historic tenets of Christian faith and the masses of people we live among. Our calling to engage will unlikely be preceded by angelic visitations, dreams and visions. We have to trust the veracity of Scripture and its testimony that such events did happen and we are to mine the truth those stories hold. There are instances of modern day Corneliuses--people who live in the shadow of church-goers--who are much closer to the Kingdom than we have imagined. Persons who are calling out to God the only way they know how. Individuals who have generous and compassionate spirits that express themselves in their concern for the downtrodden. God is speaking to them. They are looking for God, who, unknown to them, has already found them. God knows them. God is drawing them in. God is causing the paths of those who are in relationship with Him to go to them and tell His story.
Like Peter, we will often feel ill-suited to take our faith across unfamiliar boundaries. Like Peter, we will sometimes dialogue with Jesus about why we can't engage. But let's go anyway. That's what matters.
Like Peter, we can take the risk...