Summary: A sermon about inclusion.
"Is God Bigger than We Think?"
When C.S. Lewis was only about 6 or 7 years old he announced to his father: "Daddy, I have a prejudice against the French."
"Why?" asked his dad.
"If I knew that," replied Lewis, "it wouldn't be a prejudice."
He was right, you know.
The point about a prejudice is that it's what you have when you are 'pre-judging'.
Now, of course there are a lot of stages between "blind" prejudice and a completely informed opinion.
A lot of times we back up our prejudices by finding out just enough facts that support our case, and then conveniently ignoring the rest.
It's been said that "Bad historians, clever politicians and lazy theologians do that all the time."
And in the case of the ancient world people did it a lot.
Many Jews could tell stories about the wicked things that the "Gentiles"--which means anyone who was not a Jew--were up to.
One of the reasons some Jews gave for not going into Gentile houses and eating with them was that their houses were polluted because Gentiles forced their women to have abortions and then put the dead fetus' down the drains or under the floor boards.
In the same sort of way, some Gentiles were taught that Jews were "stuck up" because they wouldn't eat pork--which was the cheapest meat available, and that they insisted on having a day off work each week, and they wouldn't join in with normal social activities--like the parties that went on around pagan temples.
So there were all kinds of problems of prejudice between the Jews and the Gentiles...
...again, the Gentiles being everyone else.
In many ways, things haven't changed a whole lot, have they?
Many of us hold on to all sorts of prejudices against people who are different than we.
And if we'd only take the time to get to know one another, I think we'd find that those differences aren't all that great...
...and that differences are actually a good thing that have been turned into a bad thing due to the brokenness and fallen state of our world.
Most prejudice is based on fear.
But the Bible tells us in 1 John Chapter 4 that "God is Love" and that "there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear..."
...and that "The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love."
We might say then that "The person who holds on to prejudice 'has not been made perfect in love.'"
Chapter 10 of Acts is an amazing Chapter about the "growth of Christianity."
What I mean by this is that it tells about the point where Christianity dramatically and decisively went from being a religion "for Jews only" to being a religion for "everyone."
And that was and is radical!!!
Christianity grew up in much the same way as you and I grow up, and growing up is never easy.
One of the most difficult parts about growing up is leaving home.
In order to grow up we have to break away, like a bird has to leave its nest.
Christianity was born in a Jewish home, and it can never repay its debt of gratitude to that home.
In that home it learned about the majesty of God.
But like all children, it had to leave home.
Judaism was the religion of a nation; Christianity is a religion for all nations, all peoples.
The break had to be made; and it was made.
The story of Peter and Cornelius is the story about the first time a Gentile was publicly and officially welcomed into the Christian Church without first having to conform to the requirements of the Jewish Law.
It marks the point at which Christianity dramatically and decisively asserted its independence from Judaism.
It marks the point where The Holy Spirit broke down the walls separating people, as learned: "God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean...
...I really am learning that God doesn't show partiality to one group of people over another."
Are we learning this as well?
Are we growing up in and through our walk with Christ?
What old prejudices is God breaking down in your life as you walk with God?
Whom have you come to know, love and respect as an equal, not impure or unclean, as a result of your faith in Christ?
Are you growing as a result of your relationship with Jesus?
Is your perception of God getting bigger and bigger the longer you study the Scriptures, come to church, and live out your faith in the world?
Are you more accepting of others because of Jesus?
Are you more loving?
Are you more empathetic?
Do you mingle with more folks who are different than you--whether that difference be race, religion, class, whatever?