Peter, a Jewish Christian, has gone into the house of Cornelius, a pagan Gentile. He has not only entered his home. He has also taught him about Jesus and baptized him as the first Gentile convert. The word spreads quickly. “Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God”(Acts 11:1). Yet this news provokes a surprisingly hostile reaction. “So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them’”(Acts 11:2-3). In newspaper terms, they have “buried the lead”—missing the big news that Gentiles have become disciples of Jesus and only seeing that Peter shared a meal with them.
Contact with Gentiles is a sore topic among Jews at this time. Peter himself has wrestled with the decision of whether it is appropriate to go to Cornelius and preach to him. Yet all of his inner turmoil—and the divine signs that convinced him it was right—is unknown to those of “the circumcision party”(presumably a group of zealous Jewish Christians). They simply assume that Peter has boldly done something he knows is wrong and want to call his attention to it. No one in the New Testament church views Peter as infallible, nor does Peter respond to this criticism by claiming special authority for himself.
The Bible speaks frankly about the fact that people often receive criticism for following God’s expectations. Peter has violated an age-old taboo at the insistence of God. The good news about criticism is that when it is offered by those who are humble and sincere to those who are humble and sincere, it can do good. Peter explains himself carefully and convinces them they are wrong. We must be prepared to deal with criticism with humility, sincerity, and grace.
------------- One Thing to Think About: Have I received criticism for my attempts to obey God? How have I handled it?
One Thing to Pray For: Grace to give and receive criticism well
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