Peter and the echo chamber

Acts 10 is a bit of a puzzle, because God gives us a beautiful missionary story … and a missionary who isn’t very enthusiastic! Peter does not want to be at Cornelius’ home―he makes that clear in the rudest way possible. What’s the deal? We can begin to understand if we begin a little closer to home, in a galaxy not so far away, where we have a similar problem but a different date.

At mid-century, Brown v. Board of Education was the lightening rod that oriented most Christian responses to racial integration. There have always been crude fighters like, say, Billy James Hargis―loud, racist braggarts who courted controversy. But, there have also always been more “sophisticated” versions of the same―polished sweetness camouflaging a “kinder, gentler” form of racism.

At mid-century, the “freedom of association” plea was the argument de jour among the more cosmopolitan racists.1 Briefly, this argument claimed the Supreme Court could not force individuals to associate (i.e. integrate) against their will. Nelson Bell gives us a good example of this “freedom of association” pitch. Bell was a Virginia-born medical missionary to China, along with his wife, for 35 years. He was Billy Graham’s father-in-law. For years, he had a regular column in Christianity Today, that bastion of sophisticated, northern evangelicalism.  

In 1955, Bell published an article in his denomination’s periodical, Southern Presbyterian Journal, titled “Christian Race Relations Must be Natural, Not Forced.” He declared “… it is un-Christian, unrealistic and utterly foolish to force those barriers of race which have been established by God and which when destroyed by man are destroyed to his own loss.”2 He said race distinctions were “God ordained,” no matter what Brown v. Board of Education said,3 and integration has “nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity.”4 Indeed, Bell proclaimed that by way of unnatural, forced integration, “the right of the individual is violated.”5

What on earth is happening, here? How could a conservative, God-fearing man who gave the best years of his life to serving Christ in China write these words? How could he think them? Believe them? How could Bell’s denomination (also R.L. Dabney’s denomination, arch-racist that he was6) advertise a segregated “negro” ladies synod meeting in 1954,7 and just below it include a poem that gushed:8

O, Word of God! Oh, blessed Book! Into that store of wealth I look, To seek, with awe and fearful care, To learn of Wisdom written there

How could a local pastor, in the same periodical, pen an article on Amos that same month and declare “[o]ur economic and social life must be permeated by the principles of Christ …”?9 In short, why do we do things like this, which people “removed” from the time can see is totally opposed to the Gospel of Christ?

Our look at Peter and Cornelius will tell us the answer, because while we have different dates, we have the same problem.

The Two Visions

God presents us with two complementary visions, each intended to force a meeting between two very different men. First, we meet Cornelius. He’s the archetype of a Gentile convert. He’s a Roman soldier. From Italy. He gives alms. He prays continuously. He’s devout. God sends an angel to speak to him, who explains God has noted his prayer and good works. Cornelius must send men to Joppa, south along the coast, fetch Peter and ask him return with them.

Meanwhile, Peter receives a vision of his own. As he waits for lunch, he falls into a trance. God opens the heavens. A white sheet descends slowly, held as it were from the four corners so Peter cannot see what it contains. It touches the ground and, behold!―unclean animals! Lunch is served! God commands him to eat. Peter, perhaps suspecting a divine test, demurs. The voice from above responds forcefully, “what God has cleansed, don’t ever call unclean!”10 The sheet returns and lowers twice more, then God takes the whole kaboodle back into heaven. Clearly, He doesn’t have any ritual purity issues with the animals!

Peter is confused. What does this mean? Let me ask you―is this really just about Old Covenant food laws? Jesus already declared dietary laws obsolete,11 and while Peter may be a bit thick (just like the rest of us!), is this dramatic vision really necessary to get that point across? Why is this the divine revelation God gives to Peter, just as Cornelius’ messengers arrive? Or, does it really stand for something else?

The Summons

At that moment, Cornelius’ messengers obey their GPS and pull to the curb outside. God speaks to Peter, ordering him to go with the men “without hesitation, for I have sent them.” He lumbers down the outside stairway to hail the men at the gate, and they all agree to hit the road for Caesarea on the morrow.

When morning comes, Peter does something unusual. He takes some believers from Joppa with him. Peter has traveled alone, until now. He’s gone to Samaria to inaugurate the Samaritan Pentecost after Phillip evangelized the area. He’s gone hither and thon throughout Judea and Galilee, visiting established congregations. But, he’s not yet gone to see an arch Gentile like Cornelius. He didn’t care about traveling alone before, but now he feels compelled to drag witnesses along. Strange …

After a stop at the Wendy’s drive thru for a tasty breakfast, they hit the road and arrive at Cornelius’ home late the same day. The soldier is waiting. Not only that, he’s gathered his relatives and close friends. After an embarrassing greeting from Cornelius they’re both eager to put behind them, they walk into the house … and Peter stops dead.

He sees “many persons gathered.” He’s horrified, nervous, on edge. He then blurts out one of the rudest, most cruel things we see in the New Covenant scriptures. He tells them “it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation.” That is a lie. You will search the Old Covenant in vain for this command, or even its implication. Peter then tepidly declares he now understands that vision from God wasn’t about animals at all―it was about Gentiles. Nevertheless, he isn’t a happy camper. Tersely, he states, “so when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.” He basically asks, “what do you want?”

Shocking! It’s hard to imagine a missionary so reluctant to evangelize. He wants to leave. He wants to run. He’s uncomfortable. Why? Because Peter is the product of a culture that regards Gentiles as contaminated, impure, ceremonially dirty. The Mishnah is full of detailed laws about how to disinfect your spoon, your plate, your home, yourself … if a Gentile so much as came near any of it. Gentiles were like COVID-19. You didn’t like them. You didn’t want them around. You wanted to disinfect anything they came near. They soiled you. The air they breathed polluted you and your home.12 You wanted them OUT.

And so Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ and a genuine product of his time, tells this eager audience, “I can’t talk to you. It’s against God’s law. But, you already knew that. Still, God told me I could talk to you now. So, here I am. What do you want from me?”

Horrifying. He doesn’t like Gentiles. Nor does the hardline faction in Jerusalem―they’ll call him on the carpet as soon as he returns. What made Peter respond this way?

The Echo-chamber

It’s the same reason Nelson Bell penned his little essay. Peter’s problem was that he lived in an interpretive echo-chamber and, like Nelson Bell, he used scripture as a blackjack to reinforce cultural prejudices. He didn’t see it, of course. God had to confront Peter, as forcefully and emphatically as possible short of a direct order. Instead, he dropped very obvious breadcrumbs and left Peter to follow the trail to the obvious conclusion.

You see, we’re all catechized into some degree of conformity based on our “social bubble.” There’s a reluctance to use language like “systemic” or “structural” today, because we fear appropriating culture war rhetoric. But, people believe in all sorts of systemic “injustices” that go beyond the level of the individual to the “system” itself. You might believe “the system is rigged” in the media world to suppress conservative political ideology. You might believe “the fix is in” on college campuses to coddle students who cower at the realities of real life. You may believe America is a “Christian nation” which “they” (whoever they are) are trying to destroy. And so it goes. We don’t have a problem with the concept of “systemic” or “structural” forces. We acknowledge them all the time, but rarely recognize when we’re the one’s caught up in the echo-chamber.

Peter didn’t. It’s why God arranged this meeting. It’s the same with Nelson Bell. What God is doing in this passage is showing us that anyone who fears him and obeys Gospel is accepted. There is no partiality. There is no elite caste in the Christian world. The Gospel is for everybody.

And, of course, God demonstrated that in the most vivid way imaginable by orchestrating a Gentile Pentecost that evening in Caesarea. The witnesses Peter dragged along are shocked―the Holy Spirit is for Gentiles, too? Mind. Blown.

Takeaways

Here are three red flags to spot echo-chambers in your spiritual community. They don’t stand on their own but, together, they form a grid that is pretty reliable.

The more removed it is from the plain meaning of scripture it is, the worse it is. If the teaching is not explicit or implicit in the text, be very careful. Can you read the scriptures and really walk away with the idea that Israelites could never speak to someone who wasn’t a Jew? Absurd!

If most Christians throughout history have never heard of it, it’s bad. The Spirit guides the Church into all truth. A broader historical sweep helps us spot interpretive weirdness in our own age.

If a scripture passage’s original audience wouldn’t have understood what you’re doing with the text, it’s probably bad. Moses married a black woman from Cush (Num 12:1). Do you think he agreed with Peter about Gentile defilement? Would Ruth? Would Isaiah (Isa 56:1-8) agree with Peter? Would Ebed-Melech (Jer 39:16-18)?

Nelson Bell’s article produced an avalanche of positive responses.13 Two months after it ran, the editor proclaimed that it had nearly exhausted two separate print runs of 10,000 copies. He summed up readers comments as saying “it is the nearest to a truly Christian statement of what race relations should be than anything which has appeared anywhere in print.”

Yet, two years after Brown, 90% of the white population in South Carolina still opposed desegregation in schools. Most Baptist pastors in the state tried to keep quiet on the issue rather than risk alienating their congregations14―just like Peter in Galatians 2.

One South Carolina pastor, angry about pro-integration SBC literature, wrote that his congregation was asking: “Are the leaders of our denomination intimating, suggesting, or projecting the idea that we as Baptist Churches should open our doors to our colored brother and invite him to come and worship with us?”15 We naturally respond with, “yes, what color is the sky in your world?” Yet, this is akin to Peter’s companion’s stunned reaction to the Gentile Pentecost in our passage!

What’s so evil about Nelson Bell’s editorial is that it puts culture into the driver’s seat of interpreting scripture. It uses the bible to banish people to the segregated margins of God’s coming kingdom community, which is exactly what Peter was pressured to do in Antioch, and what he wanted to do here. God orchestrated this entire encounter to show Peter how wrong he was … and to show us, too!

Peter realized this when Cornelius ignored his insulting greeting and explained his own vision. I wonder if Nelson Bell ever did.

Notes

1 See especially “Here’s Text of Majority Report by Sibley Committee,” Atlanta Constitution, 29 April 1960, pp. 12-13. See also Barry Goldwater’s comments along this line in the context of criticizing forced busing in “Right ‘Not to Associate,’” New York Times, 27 October 1964, p. 30. Retrieved from https://nyti.ms/2ZCmLmH.

For historical context, see James T. Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 380-406. See also Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), ch. 6.

2 Nelson Bell, “Christian Race Relations Must Be Natural, Not Forced,” in Southern Presbyterian Journal, 17 August 1955, p. 3. https://archive.org/details/southernpresbyte14dend/page/n280/mode/1up?view=theater.

3 Bell, “Christian Race Relations,” p. 4.

4 Bell, “Christian Race Relations,” p. 4.  

5 Bell, “Christian Race Relations,” pp. 4-5.

6 See R. L. Dabney, “Ecclesiastical Relation of Negroes,” (Richmond, 1868). https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ecclesiastical_Relation_of_Negroes.  

7 Southern Presbyterian Journal, 05 May 1954, p. 15. https://archive.org/details/southernpresbyte13dend/page/n20/mode/1up?view=theater  

8 Southern Presbyterian Journal, 05 May 1954, p. 15.  

9 Rev. J. Kenton Parker, “Amos Condemns Social Injustice,” § “The Terrible Social Sins of Israel: 8:4-7,” in Southern Presbyterian Journal, 26 May 1954, p. 13.

10 v.15 is my own translation. The strong, emphatic negation is missing from the ESV. 

11 See Mark 7:19 and consider the broader implications of the New Covenant for moral and ritual impurity.  

12 On this tradition, which has no basis in the Hebrew scriptures, see especially Gary Gilbert, “Gentiles, Jewish Attitudes Towards,” at § Gentiles and Ritual Purity, in The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, ed(s). John Collins and Daniel Harlow (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), p. 672. See also the relevant tractates in the Mishnah. See especially Emil Shurer and Alfred Edersheim.  

13 Southern Presbyterian Journal, 05 October 1955, p. 21. See also Ibid, 16 November 1955, p. 3.

14 J. Russell Hawkins, The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to Preserve White Supremacy (New York: OUP, 2021), p. 22.

15 Hawkins, Bible Told Them, p. 23. 

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There are 15 Comments

WallyMorris's picture

You are assuming too much about Peter's attitude. Borderline eisegesis.

10:14 - To some degree the vision IS about food since Peter, even at this point, is still following OT food regulations.

10:23 - Peter invites them into his home where they would sleep & eat. Not the attitude of a racist.

10:28-29 - Peter expresses changing attitude. Simply wants to know why they wanted him to come.

Christian revisionism concerning race relations often appears self-righteous and "holier-than-thou". Racial problems in America also included legitimate discussions about the role of gov't. Apparently gov't involvement in forcing racial mixing hasn't solved as much as people would like to think since we are still debating the issue and trying to "solve" the problem.

You make some good points in your article, but assume too much about Peter.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The text is quite clear that Peter doesn't think he should have anything to do with gentiles until God realigns his thinking. We also know from Galatians that Peter had to be realigned in this way more than once. There's a clear negative ethnic prejudice, which is what racism is.

Consider these words...

28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. (Ac 10:28)

There's a clear before and after here. Before: those guys are unclean. After: God says those guys are not unclean and I was wrong.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Ga 2:11–14)

So, anti-gentile prejudice was an ongoing struggle for Peter. But in Acts 10 he at least took the first major step toward really getting it. We're all just humans.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

WallyMorris's picture

Using Peter as an example of modern-day racism is reading more into the text than the text allows. Doing so may make modern Christians feel somewhat smug about their own enlightened views toward people, but be fair to Peter.

In Acts 10:28 Peter uses a word that most lexicons give the usage as "unlawful" in that verse. Peter believed that associations with Gentiles were forbidden, apparently based on Jewish tradition since the OT does not have a specific statement about it. To say that Peter was "racist" reads more into the text than the text says. I suspect some are putting modern views about race and racism into the text and Peter's actions. When given the vision and command about food in Acts 10, then accepting Cornelius's friends (who were probably Gentile) into his home, Peter shows he is already beginning to change his understanding of what is forbidden.

The text of Galatians 2:12 specifically states Peter's motive was fear, not racism. The "ongoing struggle" in Peter's life was not "anti-Gentile prejudice" (racism) but fear. Fear was the reason he denied Christ and also started sinking after walking on water with Christ.

I would be very careful about accusing a brother in Christ of racism based on the limited textual evidence which can be understand differently than "racism".

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

G. N. Barkman's picture

In Galatians, Peter demonstrated no racial prejudices.  He freely ate with Gentiles.  But, when the Jews from Jerusalem arrived, Peter withdrew from Gentiles.  The Jews were bullies, and Peter was unwilling to stand up to them.  But Peter was far from alone.  Every other Jew, including Barnabas, was afraid of standing up to these Jews.  Paul alone was willing to take a stand against them.  This is not an account of racial prejudice on the part of Peter and Barnabas, as much as an account of Christian bullying tactics.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

I never said Peter was racist. I said he was the product of an interpretive echo chamber whose tradition produced extra-textual actions and prejudices that marginalized potential brothers and sisters in Christ. Nelson Bell had the same problem.

My point isn't "Peter was a racist." It is "look at what echo-chambers make us do to the bible!" How might this problem be repeating, today? See my "takeaways."

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:

I never said Peter was racist. I said he was the product of an interpretive echo chamber whose tradition produced extra-textual actions and prejudices that marginalized potential brothers and sisters in Christ. Nelson Bell had the same problem.

My point isn't "Peter was a racist." It is "look at what echo-chambers make us do to the bible!" How might this problem be repeating, today? See my "takeaways."

 

Takeaways

Here are three red flags to spot echo-chambers in your spiritual community. They don’t stand on their own but, together, they form a grid that is pretty reliable.

The more removed it is from the plain meaning of scripture it is, the worse it is. If the teaching is not explicit or implicit in the text, be very careful. Can you read the scriptures and really walk away with the idea that Israelites could never speak to someone who wasn’t a Jew? Absurd!

If most Christians throughout history have never heard of it, it’s bad. The Spirit guides the Church into all truth. A broader historical sweep helps us spot interpretive weirdness in our own age.

If a scripture passage’s original audience wouldn’t have understood what you’re doing with the text, it’s probably bad. Moses married a black woman from Cush (Num 12:1). Do you think he agreed with Peter about Gentile defilement? Would Ruth? Would Isaiah (Isa 56:1-8) agree with Peter? Would Ebed-Melech (Jer 39:16-18)?

Curious, Tyler, do you think Luke's main point in this passage is to address Peter's "interpretive echo chamber," or is he seeking to demonstrate something bigger than that? In other words, would Luke's original audience have understood what you’re doing with the text?

Bert Perry's picture

Remember that later in Acts, Paul rebukes Peter to his face for refusing to eat with Gentiles.  So to assume that there was no racism (or "ethnicism" perhaps) when God told Peter to go to Cornelius simply ignores the greater context of Acts.  You also see this when Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman--the disciples were shocked that He'd talk with such a woman.

I'd even argue that the greater context of the New Testament makes a powerful statement against arbitrary exclusion of "the other" in general.  Our Lord is condemned when He talks to tax collectors, prostitutes, and "sinners" in general.  More or less, as we sometimes see today in our own assemblies, "the different" is too often assumed to be "the threat", and just as Peter learned with Cornelius and the Gentiles, it's a huge threat to evangelism.

Much appreciated, Tyler.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

G. N. Barkman's picture

No, Bert, the occasion to which you refer is in Galatians, not in Acts, and has been discussed above.  Peter did NOT refuse to eat with Gentiles until the Jews from Jerusalem arrived to apply pressure.  Prior to that, he ate freely with Gentile believers, indicating that he was not racially prejudiced against Gentiles at this time in his life.  (If he ever was.  His previous hesitation may be better understood in the light of OT strictures.) 

Your comment only underscores the caution raised above that we tend to read our present day concerns into the NT, and thereby misinterpret what the text actually teaches.

G. N. Barkman

Joel Shaffer's picture

I think much of the misunderstanding to Tyler's article comes from how we actually define racism. If we define racism the way political conservatives do then racism has been largely eradicated in this country and relegated to the KKK.  If we we define racism the way political progressives do then everything is racism. Both views are woefully deficient. Racism Biblically defined is the sin of partiality based on a person's color of their skin or ethnic background.  This can manifest in our thoughts if we believe certain race/ethnic groups are inferior due to their DNA or culture. Of course it manifests in our actions, which is the most common way people think of race. But it can also manifest in what we don't do as well when a person or group is being discriminated against (due to their ethnicity and/or race) in our churches, in our cities, or country and we fail to speak up on behalf of them.  Many Christians who believe that racism has been largely eradicated in America like to focus only on the outward actions, which does very little to get to the heart of the sin of racism. From Carl Henry: 

 Race discrimination is especially subtle. It is not externally measurable in the same way that sins of the flesh are: it cannot be gauged by jiggers or by speedometers. Race feeling is essentially a matter of false pride, an internal disposition to deny a fellow human’s equal worth and one’s own unworthiness also, before God. Nonetheless, it differs in degree, and not in kind, from other violations of the law of love for neighbor, which involves every area of life.”  The Church and the Race Problem, CT  March 18 1957, Vol. 1, No. 12, Pg 2.

Also, the argument that "Peter invites them into his home where they would sleep & eat. Not the attitude of a racist"  comes across as projecting 20th/21st century American cultural norms from America on 1st century hospitality norms.  But if you narrow the sin of racism to only an outward action, I can understand why you wouldn't think that someone can be hospitable towards another whom they harbor racial prejudice against. 

I find it interesting as we talk about Peter and the related passage in Galatians  2:11-14, that many conservative pastors and theologians have not narrowly interpreted the passage only as a bullying incidence by the Judaizers, but connected interpreted it as including racial prejudice, including John MacArthur. I guess no conservative Christian is immune from "Woke Culture." (Sarcasm) 

“So what you had was the Jews holding to their own dietary laws and a kind of developing racism toward Gentiles. We saw the racism even in the day of Jonah, where he didn’t want to see Gentiles repent. Jews resented, hated Gentiles; and they kept separate."    https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/48-9/the-danger-of-adding-to-the-gospel

I don't have time to break down what Tom Schreiner,  Walter Hansen, William Barclay's commentary and even Martin Luther have said as well because they also connect ethnic prejudice as part of the issue at hand, but my point is that this isn't a recent view of the text in response to "Woke" culture.   

Great article and great exegesis, Tyler.  I guess it struck a nerve among the white fundamentalist Christian echo chamber of Sharper Iron.  

Also, Wally what do you mean by forced Racial-Mixing?    

G. N. Barkman's picture

Great article, Joel, but you missed an important point.  It's not Peter, but the Jews from Jerusalem who are correctly faulted with a form of racism.  They are the ones holding to Jewish dietary laws.  Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and any other Jewish Christians residing in Antioch were not.  They were all eating and fellow-shipping together with Gentiles at the same table until the Jews from Jerusalem arrived and bullied Peter, Barnabas, and others to separate from Gentiles, and eat only Kosher food with Jews.  Mac Arthur does not say that Peter was racist, but that the Jews who traveled from Jerusalem were.  I fully agree with Mac Arthur on this assessment.

G. N. Barkman

RajeshG's picture

To make whether Peter was a "racist" against Gentiles or not the primary focus of one's study of Acts 10 would be to miss out on profiting from many vital truths about evangelism that the passage reveals. In fact, a careful study of the passages about that event shows that it is arguably in many respects the most important evangelistic account recorded in Scripture.

Dan Miller's picture

It has been my impression that Peter had no qualms about hosting the gentiles who went to Peter's house. But for a Jew to go into a gentle house and eat would be a nonstarter. Because how can you be hosted by someone and not eat what he provides? 

Thus, God gave Peter a dream, which Peter correctly applies to this situation: God is saying that he should go and eat in Cornelius's house. 

Now, if I understand Tyler correctly, his point is this:

  1. Peter's position prior to the dream was that as a Jew, the Law said he could not eat with Cornelius. 
  2. That position is without actual OT basis. 
  3. That position was the result of group-think with racist (ethnist) Jews. 

I'm not sure I agree. The dream was God's way of addressing Peter's conviction, which God wanted to change. And the dream was about food.  

Peter invited the strangers into his own house without any qualms (or speeches about former qualms). But later, when he arrives at Cornelius's house, then he explains that in the past, based on the Law, he would not have eaten in a gentle house.

Therefore, Peter's former conviction was not against eating with gentiles - it was against eating in their houses and specifically their food. 

So was Peter's former conviction against eating gentile food formerly legitimate?
I think yes.

Don Johnson's picture

But too off putting. I guess you are trying to be funny, but  you are really butchering the texts. Peter traveled alone? Not to Samaria, at least John was with him (Acts 8.14), most likely more than just John.

Peter didn't want to evangelize Cornelius? You are reading something into the text that is not there.

Not sure what the purpose of your article was, I quit reading it. I really can't stand it when someone mishandles the text so badly. It's called eisegesis, not exegesis.

You can't make serious points that way.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

pvawter's picture

But it can also manifest in what we don't do as well when a person or group is being discriminated against (due to their ethnicity and/or race) in our churches, in our cities, or country and we fail to speak up on behalf of them.  

Joel, I'm curious to know how exactly this is to be fleshed out in the church. Whose perception of discrimination is the standard of judgment as to whether or not an individual is guilty of racism by failing to speak up on behalf of another? To me this seems like opening oneself up to the tyranny of another's conscience, but maybe I just misunderstand.

JSwaim's picture

In the OT, Jonah, having gotten the call to go to Ninevah, goes to Joppa and buys a ticket to Tarshish and away from the Lord's call.  In Acts, Peter is in Joppa when  he gets the call to go to Cornelius and the vision correcting his notions about eating with and accepting Gentiles.  Peter obeys the call and goes.  The contrast is great between the two and I don't think it casts a negative light on Peter at all.

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