Pride and Prejudice
Prejudice is pride putting others in their imagined inferior place. An event in Acts 11 ran counter to centuries of Jewish prejudice against the Gentiles. Peter’s ministry to Cornelius and his family didn’t please those who looked down on the Gentiles as unclean. Peter defended himself by explaining his experience, beginning with his vision in Joppa (Acts 11:4–17).
He emphasized God’s initiative and his own inability to withstand Him. He didn’t want to oppose what God was doing (verse 17). God showed him the Gentiles are part of His family too.
That was a huge step. Putting the Gentiles on an equal footing with the Jews cut through centuries of prejudice. Religious prejudice continues. Almost every denomination thinks its teachings alone are completely correct. Other brands are inferior.
John Wesley once dreamed he was at the gates of hell. He discovered many Roman Catholics, Church of England, Presbyterians, and Wesleyans were there. He then found himself at the gates of heaven. He found no denominational labels there—only Christians who love the Lord.
No denomination has a corner on the truth market. We know some things out of many. What we know, we know in part. The mark of the Christian is love (John 13:34-35). That’s concrete evidence a new birth has occurred, no matter the denominational label.
Pride underlies prejudice. If we feel we’re better than other races, nationalities, classes or denominations, we’re mistaken. We’ve all done and said things we regret. We don’t want God or others to hold these things against us. Christian love builds bridges to others no matter where they’ve been or what they’ve said or done. Jesus humbly washed His disciples' feet when He knew they’d abandon Him during His darkest hours.
Acts 11:19–30 describes the ministry at Antioch, a city of about 500,000 people. Numerous Gentiles were coming to faith in Christ there. That scared Jewish believers in Jerusalem, so they sent Barnabas to investigate. He didn’t criticize these new believers. He encouraged them. They had begun well. Now they needed to persevere in their belief (11:23).
Barnabas recruited Saul from Tarsus to join him in Antioch to teach these new believers. Disciples of Jesus were first called Christians there. The word means “Christ followers.”
The end of Acts 11 records that the Christians at Antioch whose salvation had been questioned in Jerusalem were the source of supply when those Jewish believers were in need (11:29–30). It doesn’t pay to look down on others. You might need them to pick you up when you’re down!
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