Do you like to pick favorites? On one level or another, it's unavoidable for us: we have our favorite sports team, our favorite restaurants, our favorite TV shows. But on a personal level, we even do this with people: we choose our friends, we spend time with those we connect with, and so on, and so on, and so on. Sometimes when we reach that personal level, we can become disconnected from those that are different from us.
I think this personal disconnect was present in Acts 10. In this chapter, we find radically different people: Cornelius and Peter, a Gentile and a Jew. Both have different customs and social positions. This divide was present when God set apart the Jews from the Gentiles (Leviticus 20:26; Amos 3:2). Even Peter recognized this divide: "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation" (Acts 10:28, ESV). This was not a command given in the Old Testament, but the custom of the Jews to stay away from the Gentiles.
But after Peter has a vision (V. 9-16), here he is, coming to Cornelius' house and proclaiming, "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (10:34-35). So what has changed? Didn’t God divide them to begin with? Peter quickly explains that he is an eye witness to the death and resurrection of Christ (10:36-41) and that he is commanded to go and share (10:42-43). In truth, the resurrection of Christ has shifted the paradigm from one nation to all nations.
When you see this story, you may want to write it off as inapplicable: we leave it only as a question about race. But on many other levels, you could face this same problem that we all do. Are you disconnected from people that are different from you? Do you avoid people with different socio-economic status or political affiliation? In our fallen condition, we all are bent toward favoritism; we look for those that agree with us, and we like to keep it that way.
But the Gospel has transcended all economic, political, or cultural barriers we create. Thankfully, we have hope that despite our own partiality, God doesn’t pick favorites. Although we are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). If anyone has a right to partiality, God does; yet he gave us his Son to take the punishment of sin on our behalf. And God commands us to look outside our own personal barriers we make and bring this same hope to all people.
Do you feel like you pick favorites? We all do sometimes. But thanks be to God that his impartiality can melt our own partiality.