Summary: Do we bypass people with the good news about Jesus because we think they wouldn’t be interested because they are not like us in the way they dress or talk? How to pull down the barriers that keep us separated from people who are unlikely friends.
liff and Saltillo UM Churches
August 28, 2005
Dr. Marilyn S. Murphree
“Widening Your Circle of Unlikely Friends”
Introduction: Peter had come a long way in his walk with the Lord but he had restricted his preaching of the gospel to a limited audience focusing only on the Jews. He was not by training or by inclination an overly scrupulous Jew, yet he held certain prejudices. If someone had asked Peter if he were prejudiced, he would probably have emphatically denied it. How many of you think that you are prejudiced? How many don’t think you are? What does the word “prejudice mean?” It comes from two Latin words prae and judicium meaning before judgement and means a PRECONCEIVED IDEA. This idea could be favorable or unfavorable but generally it is understood by most people to be a NEGATIVE action rather than a positive one.
Today’s scripture pointed out to Peter that he had some pre-determined beliefs that were limiting his ability to reach out to people who were “different” from him. You might wonder why God chose Peter to be the one to go to the Gentiles that day. Would any of the other disciples have been as successful? Probably one of the reasons why Peter was appointed to this task was that he was usually willing to step out and try new things. Most of us resist change, and if we are reasonably comfortable we don’t want to change whether or not the change would improve things for us.
Story: A fireman every day opened his lunch bucket and took out his sandwiches. Every day he complained, “Balogna sandwiches! I’m so tired of bologna sandwiches! I hate balogna! I’d give anything for a different sandwich some day!”
His friend asked, “Well, why don’t you ask your wife to make you different sandwiches?”
The man answered, “my WIFE doesn’t make those sandwiches. I DO!”
Leaving our old beliefs behind for better ones is hard to do. It was for Peter as well as for us today. Let’s see what we can get out of today’s scripture.
1. God Knows How to Get Through to Us: How God spoke to Peter was unusual, but God frequently reveals himself in ways related to our human situation. Had God directly said, “Peter go and talk to Cornelius,” Peter probably wouldn’t have wanted to. God met Peter on a rooftop at Simon the tanner’s house praying. It was around lunch time and he was getting hungry. God knew he could get his attention through food, but it wasn’t a “Big Mac” or a “Whopper” that he brought to his mind.
He showed him a huge sheet coming down from heaven. It contained all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds.” A voice said, “Get up Peter. Kill and eat.”
Peter says, “Yuck! No way!” “Surely not Lord. I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” “You’ve got to be kidding. You expect ME to eat this?”
Story: One time we had dinner guests. We didn’t have any Coke or Pepsi but we had Big K Cola.
One of our guests said, “Do you expect me to drink Big K? I don’t drink that.” And she didn’t.
Peter says, “I don’t eat what is common or unclean or anything that doesn’t measure up to the Jewish dietary requirements. Peter had always observed the dietary restrictions of Leviticus 11 which distinguished clean and unclean animals. He was repelled by this vision.
God didn’t say, “OK, I’ll get you something else.” He said, “Don’t call anything impure that God has made clean.” God didn’t tell him this just once. Peter didn’t get it on the first try. He was disturbed by this vision, but he didn’t know what it meant. God repeated it two more times. Sometimes God has to run things by us numerous times for us to get the message. Finally we exclaim, “Oh, I GET IT. I UNDERSTAND.”
Sometimes we can seem to see the prejudices that we have. We can see them readily in others around us. God has to confront us with what is really going on in our thinking. He has to point out the blind spots we have. Sometimes that is not easy and takes quite a long time.
Story:A cowboy at a bar in Gallup, NM. orders three mugs of Bud and sits in the back room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he
comes back to the bar and orders three more. The bartender tells him, "You know, a mug goes flat after I draw it. It would taste better if you bought one at a time." The cowboy replies, "I have two brothers. One is in Flagstaff, the other in Farmington. I’m in Gallup. When we left home, we promised that we’d drink