This is the passage where Peter comes to grips with his own prejudice.
We presented our grandchildren a Christmas gift that we forgot to purchase. Our oldest daughter “home schools” her six children… God bless her! She takes them on field trips to museums and concerts and they take music lessons and science classes taught in public programs. She does a great deal of research into the curriculum that she purchases. She also pays for standardized tests to measure their level of understanding and progress …and Diane and I buy them a Family Membership to swim at the Aquatic Center through the winter months. We announced it (to great applause) on Christmas Day as everyone opened presents …and then we forgot to purchase it!
We were gently reminded by a grandchild this past week and we somewhat sheepishly drove over to the High School to pay for the membership. As I drove up to the front door I was amazed to watch a young man step into the path of our vehicle, looking straight ahead with our car in plain view, almost daring us not to stop. There was no eye contact, no wave of a hand, just a rather arrogant, privileged stride across the roadway…
I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident. But it seems all too common in our fairly affluent lakeshore community (Many of the cars parked in student parking at the High School are newer than our family vehicle). I have met people walking on the sidewalk and greeted them with a “Hello!” only to watch them lock their eyes straight ahead and walk past without acknowledging my presence.
This is learned behavior. We may not realize the lessons we are teaching our children when we talk about others in a derogatory manner… placing ourselves above them because of their income or dress, their lifestyle or the color of their skin. Our children hear (and see) our judgmental behavior and live it out themselves in their day to day lives. That young man was making a statement when he walked out in front of me with a calm, confident stride; “I am more valuable than you.” Sadly, I have seen this same arrogance in some Christian churches …and it is not a new phenomenon.
In our passage, Peter expresses amazement that God could offer salvation to someone other than his own people. His understanding of faith is stretched as God commands him to break spiritual laws.
In, “The Book of Joy” which chronicles stories of the special friendship between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu… there are two rather profound examples of breaking the boundaries of faith traditions in the name of love. In the first, the Archbishop is dancing as Tibetan refugee children are making music. The Archbishop invites the Dalai Lama to join in the dance …in violation of his monastic vows the children cheer as the Dalai Lama “shimmies” to the music. In the second instance …and in violation of Christian doctrine the Archbishop serves the Buddhist monk Holy Communion.
Maybe these spiritual leaders, like Peter in our passage, have learned to see beyond their social, economic and religious prejudices to see all people …as loved by God.