Let’s be honest.
Grace is an enigma.
We don’t understand it. Not really, anyway.
We think we do. We like to pretend we do, but we don’t.
If we’re honest, we are often much more like Jonah than we care to admit. We think we should get the say on who gets it, and how much they get.
We classify sins. The ones able to get grace end up sinning in ways much like we do. They look like us, act like us, are educated as us, and make the same mistakes we do. Who needs to call out gluttony or lust as long as its a private thing.
But those other people. Thank heavens that we are not like them. They sin in ways that are much more destructive than we do, right? We aren’t like those filthy Ninevites that God should kill and destroy, and we aren’t like those pagans in our society that mock God and deserve to be punished, banned, and ridiculed. What they need is to hear how much God is upset with them, not how much grace he has.
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. Acts 10:1-8
Grace is a hard thing to understand. We want to regulate it, to be the gatekeepers for it. Deep down, I think we’re all aware of how much we need and we’re afraid that if God gives it to those people, he might run out for us, so it’s just better to make sure they never get it.
Acts 10 gives us this dramatic shift in the story (yet again). We’ve gone from an isolated group of Christians, to a persecuted movement, to ISIS-zealot turned Christian Paul, and now, in one last unfathomable level of inclusion, the Gentiles are getting in on God’s grace.
Cornelius, a Gentile (that’s bad) Roman (that’s really bad) solider (the active, occupying enemy, that’s worst of all!) gets a vision from God. Turns out his heart for the poor and fervent prayer life have caught the attention of God himself. He’s told to go get a Jewish fisherman turned Apostle Jesus-follower so that he might hear the next step of God’s redemptive plan.
He immediately sends for Peter, who as we shall see in the next story, will have his own struggle with God’s redemptive and transformative grace.
Here are three quick thoughts on grace: