Peter must have been on a spiritual high, after being used by of Holy Spirit to bring about another Pentecost-like outpouring of faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius, a prominent and well regarded centurion, along with his family and friends as they repented and found forgiveness of sins through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was big news! God had now brought salvation to the Gentiles, just as he promised in the Old Testament. Peter seemed good and excited to bring the news to the other apostles, heading directly to Jerusalem after leaving the company of Cornelius. So big was this news that it even preceded Peter, arriving before him to the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem. But instead of arriving home to a joyous reunion and harps of praise, Peter faced the judgment of those critical of his actions. A group of Jewish Christians, referred to as “those who were circumcised,” awaited him and accused him of compromising his devotion to God. The truth is, Peter could not have been more obedient and was clearly in the center of God’s will.
Why is it that some in the church, at times, are so quick to be critical of and judge the innocent actions of their brothers and sisters, without first extending grace? We’ve all experienced it one time or another. And I suppose it shouldn’t be totally surprising, given that those in the church are equally as susceptible to sin as those outside it. Yet we are all unified by the Spirit of God through our faith in Jesus Christ and it seems that we should be able to extend grace as it has been given to us. Even when we have legitimately been wronged or hurt by our Christian brothers and sisters, it seems our desire should be to treat others as God has treated us.
This Sunday, we’re going to look at the elements of Peter’s trial by the brethren, to see what God might teach us through it and how we may become the kind of people and a church that extends grace as grace has been extended to us.