UNCERTAIN | Protecting the Image | PART 10
May 31, 2020

UNCERTAIN | Protecting the Image | PART 10

Speaker:
Passage: Acts 10:15, Acts 10:20, Acts 10:27-28, Psalm 139:23-24, Acts 10:34-35, Acts 10:28
Service Type:
Topics: , ,

Christianity was birthed in an environment of racial tension that was even more complex than our own. If unity in Jesus was possible in the first century, there’s still hope for the Church today!

Series: UNCERTAIN: Discovering Who We are Through Difficult Times,
Speaker: Pastor Don Dodge,
Scripture: Acts 10:15, Acts 10:20, Acts 10:27-28, Psalm 139:23-24, Acts 10:34-35, Acts 10:28,
Video: https://www.facebook.com/avalonchurch/videos/2664655110477146/,
Sermon page: https://www.avalonchurch.org/sermons/uncertain-protecting-the-image-part-10/,
Sermon Notes: 2020-05-31_10_uncertain-part-10_sermon-notes.pdf,
Discussion Questions: 2020-05-31_10_uncertain-part-10_discussion-questions.pdf,

Notes:

INTRO

Today we’re going to talk about the results of Pentecost.

But before I jump in today,
I need to give a little perspective.

I grew up in a police officer’s family.

My Dad was a cop in Miami for 9 years,
and retired from the Lakeland Police Department.

My grandfather was the police chief in Miramar Florida.

I love police men and women.
I’m grateful for all they do to protect us.

I respect them.
I don’t idolize them, their normal people.
But my inclination is to trust them.

I don’t worry about my daughter’s safety
If she’s pulled over by a police officer.

Any conversation about it would likely begin
with advice about making sure
you pull of the road so you don’t block traffic.

Maybe, “Smile. Be nice.”

The expectation is,
No matter what happens, you’re safe.

That’s the experience I grew up with.
That is not everyone’s experience.

We (tension) – perspective

Earlier this week,
I watched a young, black pastor share his story.

In college, a group of his friends,
white and black, went for a drive.

The white friend was driving.
They were pulled over.

The driver respectfully challenged
the officer’s reason for pulling them over.

The exchange was brief… and cordial.
He was given the ticket and they left.

For the black pastor,
This was eye-opening.

He was shocked at the freedom white people felt
to question a police officer.

As a black man, he never felt that freedom.
Never.

In fact, he was taught never to reach for his wallet.

…To always ask for permission first,
…or invite the officer to get it.

He was taught to look down,
And never look a police officer in the eyes.

Years later, he was pulled over  for speeding in a white neighborhood.

He knew he was doing 27 in a 30,
Because he knew he was in a white neighborhood,
And that there was an officer behind him.

He explained this,
And was quickly told to get out of the car,

…Because he looked drunk.

He got out and quietly explained he was a pastor
visiting a family in his church.

A Bible was on the front seat.

After a very long minute of looking him over,
The pastor was allowed to leave.

This pastor was scared.
That’s not been my experience.
And then, this week,

There was a story of a black man who, while birdwatching,
Asked a woman to leash her dog,

…Which was the law.

And she called 911 saying her life was threatened.

And then, that picture of George Floyd
With the officer’s knee on his neck

…for 9 minutes.

I first saw the picture next to Colin Kapernaek’s
Where he was kneeling during the national anthem.

It said that if Kapernaek’s non-violent protest gets you more upset than a cuffed man with another man’s knee on his neck.

There is a problem.

I saw that picture before I knew Mr. Floyd had died.

I was wrecked.
This is not okay.

This is not just a race issue.
It’s an image of God issue.

God

When Jesus began his ministry,
He invited very diverse people to follow him.

There was Simon the Zealot
who urged for violent rebellion against anything Roman.

There was Matthew the tax-collecting traitor
A Jew who sold out for Rome.

Both invited to follow Jesus as one family.
Imagine those fireside chats!

After the resurrection, when Christianity was born,

Wealthy Pharisees joined the poor Jews they used to oppress,
As one united family in Jesus.

And as the story of Jesus’ resurrection
exploded around the Roman Empire,

…the racial and cultural division was off the charts.

The Jews believed they were chosen by God,
…Which made them better than anyone else.

The Gentiles hated the Jews
for being so prejudice and judgmental.

And there were slaves
…who were, well, rejected by everyone.

And then there were women,
they were granted no rights whatsoever.

And finally, there were the Roman citizens.
They were the ones in power.

They controlled the system.
They tilted everything in their favor.

And this is an oversimplification.
The issues were very complex.

And suddenly, all these groups
Found themselves worshiping Jesus together.

As one family.

And through much struggle,
And many NT letters,

They made it work.

Which gives us hope!
Because Jesus is bigger what divided them.

But the struggle lasted a long time.

Think about Peter;
He walked with Jesus for 3 years.

He watched Jesus offer to go to a Roman soldier’s house,
…and heal a family member.

He had long conversations with a woman,
..even a Samaritan woman,
…and even stayed in her village for days.

He ministered to the poor,
children,
…and prostitutes,
…and beggars,
…and those with special needs.

And Peter was there through it all.
Yet, 15 years after the resurrection, he still struggled.

The book of Acts tells us about Peter
having a vision while he was praying.

God told him to eat food that wasn’t kosher,
…that wasn’t allowed in the Law of Moses.

At first, Peter wouldn’t do it,
Until God told him

15 “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” –Acts 10 (NLT)

And that’s when Peter heard a knock at the door.

A Gentile, A Roman centurion named Cornelius,
would like to see him.

A Roman Oppressor.
The worst of the worst.

But the Holy Spirit said to Peter,

20 Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.” –Acts 10:20 (NLT)

They want to hear about Jesus

So after about a day’s walk,
Peter met Cornelius outside his house.

27 So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled. –Acts 10:27 (NLT)

Now remember,
This was not allowed in the Jewish religion.

Gentiles were inferior.
Dirty.

You can see it in Peter’s reaction.

He had never been in a Gentile’s home.
 
Before the vision,
he would never go into a Gentile’s home.

I imagine Peter standing at the door,
Wondering if he should have asked God for some I.D.
when he had that vision,

And Cornelius, he’s excited.
He’s invited everyone he knows.

Friends, family,
Anyone intrigued about the Jewish man who rose from the dead.

And listen to what Peter says,
…Like, out loud.

Filter off.
You know, saying what you’re thinking
before thinking about what you’re saying?

So Peter says,

28 Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you...—Acts 10:28 (NLT)

This is how he starts.

Hi, everyone. As you know, I shouldn’t be here.
We Jews don’t go into houses of Gentile people.

Can you imagine if a white man said this
When invited into the home of a black family?

That’s how bad it was.
The division was palpable.
You could feel it in the air.

But look at the rest of the verse.

But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. –Acts 10:28 (NLT)

Think about what Peter is saying,

Up until this moment,
I considered all of you impure and unclean.

But God has shown me
I shouldn’t call you that anymore.

And I imagine them thinking,

Well, thank you?
I feel so much better now.

I imagine them wondering

So, God told you that?
Do you believe it?

You’ve spent your entire life
looking down on us and judging us.

Do you believe we are no unclean and unworthy?

It’s the way Peter was raised.
Judgment and resentment,

…They were his default.

For the rest of his life,

…he would constantly have to test
his default way of thinking,
to the ways of God’s Kingdom.

But here is where there is hope.
And let me change the emphasized words.

But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. –Acts 10:28 (NLT)

But God has shown me.
God has opened my eyes and now I seedifferently.

How I grew up,
What I was taught,
The disappointment that I might cause,

…this doesn’t have to define me,
…Because God is changing me.

And God has shown me
that we are all made in the image of God.

God revealed to Peter his prejudice and intolerance.
God exposed Peter’s bent towards injustice.

And in allegiance to his King,
Peter submitted to what God revealed.

And because he did,
And Because Paul did,
And because James did,

The Gentiles were soon welcomed into the family of Jesus
…AS EQUALS.

That is what made it possible for us today.
The Church is made of

Jews and Gentiles,
Blacks and whites and Hispanics and Asians,

Men and women,
Singles and marrieds,
Rich and poor,

Liars, cheaters, Adulterers, and addicts,
Forgiven sinners now deemed saints

Living as one people in Jesus.
Many different parts unified in one purpose

God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
God’s love on earth as it is in heaven,
Life and freedom and wholeness on earth as it is in heaven.

America has a race issue.
So does the church.

America has a problem judging people.
So does the church.

But as the church, As Jesus’ family,
we have incredible hope.

Because we know it changed once.
And God can do it again.

This is not a black and white issue.

This is a human issue.
It’s an image of God issue.

You (Application. So What?)

We must protect the image.
We must bestow dignity on all people.

All people reflect the image of God.

You know, if anyone hurts my girls,
I will come to their rescue.

You see, you cannot mistreat my children
and be okay with me.

In the same way, we cannot mistreat others, God’s children,
and be okay with our Father in heaven.

We must defend those who are different from us.
We must stand in the gap when we see injustice.

We must never demean or reject those who believe differently,
…or vote differently,
…or live differently.

Jesus’ invitation is offered to all.
As his family, we welcome all to the journey.

So how do we do that?
What does love require of us?

Look at that powerful verse again,

But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. –Acts 10:28 (NLT)

Seeing people as God sees them,
…it requires a work of God in us.

As Peter prayed, God spoke to him.
And Peter chose the hard road of humility,

Conceding that he was wrong,
That the way he was brought up,
…was not God’s way.

Peter’s heart-change wasn’t easy,
And it wasn’t quick,

But God transformed him.
And God transformed the church under his leadership.

When we foster our relationship with God,
he speaks.

So we seek God,
knowing that as he changes us,
…he will bring an end
to the patterns of racism and prejudice in our lives.

So we ask God to reveal any damaging ways in us.

Opening our eyes and our hearts
to love those who are different.

To stand up for the marginalized.
To meet needs without prejudice.

Martin Luther King Jr. said,

I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don't know each other… Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s when we get to know people,

…That we begin to understand
how different their experience is from ours.

It’s when we spend time with people
That we appreciate the complexities of their situation.

We become humble.
And we become intentional.

Reaching out to neighbors and coworkers
who are different from us.

Asking questions about what they care about
And sharing meals together.

I pray you will begin to ask God
to expose what’s in your heart. prejudices.

I want to encourage you
to pray 2 verses every day this week.

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. –Psalm 139 (NIV)

Pray, open my eyes, Lord.
Help me spot any prejudice or judgment towards others.

Help me see the way you do.

Instead of justifying it,
Give me the courage to eradicate any prejudice from my heart.

God created a beautiful and messy and diverse church before.
I believe he can do it again.

Let’s pray.

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” -Acts 10:34-35 (NIV)

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