A Canaanite woman came to Jesus, asking that her daughter be healed. After a somewhat peculiar exchange of words, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment” (Matthew 15:28).

This Canaanite woman had great faith.

An influential Roman centurion in Capernaum requested that Jesus heal his beloved servant, but he knew Jesus didn’t have to be present to do a miracle. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’” (Luke 7:9). The servant was healed by the time the centurion’s representatives got home.

This Roman centurion had amazing faith.

And yet Peter—oh, Peter—who witnessed these and many other exchanges between Jesus and various Gentiles, didn’t catch that Jesus came for all peoples. He was so acclimated to his privilege (as one of God’s chosen people) that he couldn’t move beyond it without a specific, individualized vision from the Lord.

Acts 10.

Even then—even in the middle of this vision—Peter said, “Surely not, Lord!” (Acts 10:14).

Surely You don’t want me to go against a lifetime of conviction.

Surely You aren’t going to act contrary to convention.

Surely You don’t want to save them.

Surely not, Lord.

Sometimes we also say, “Surely not, Lord!”

Surely You don’t want me to forego my long-standing retirement plan.

Surely You don’t want me to discard these years of education.

Surely You aren’t asking me to forget about that gargantuan offense.

Surely You don’t want to save them.

Surely not, Lord.

Who are we to tell God “no”?

Who are we to decide who God should “show up” for, or who can approach Him?

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.  –Psalm 24:3-4

It wasn’t about being
a descendant of Abraham.

Even in David’s day, it wasn’t about being a descendant of Abraham but about “clean hands and a pure heart.” Those clean hands refer to obedience, to doing only that which God wants done. The pure heart refers to a clear conscience and a healthy fear of the Lord.*

Peter finally realized who God accepts. It took a personal vision, a trip to Caesarea, and a crowd gathered in Cornelius’ home, eagerly awaiting whatever he would say.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Acts 10:34-35

The one who fears him and does what is right. That’s reverence and obedience.

The reverent and obedient…
that’s who God shows up for.

When God calls someone to faith, it isn’t about bloodlines or ancestry but about knowing Him: reverence and obedience. That’s who God shows up for.

We don’t put much stock in bloodlines these days, but we may still think some people more deserving of salvation than others. Did you hear that Kanye West recently experienced a “radical salvation” (his words)? I shamefully confess, the response around our table was incredulous. Our attitude said, “Surely not, Lord.”

As Peter watched the Holy Spirit descend on those gathered in Cornelius’ home, they began prophesying and speaking in tongues—just like the disciples, including Peter himself, had done at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). God made himself clear. He stiffled Peter’s “surely not.”

God stiffled Peter’s
“surely not.”

Peter learned his lesson well. A few chapters later, as the leadership in Jerusalem debated about believers in the First Church of Antioch, Peter could comfortably accept these believers in their Gentile-ness, not in spite of it.

God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Acts 15:8-9

He purified their hearts by faith. Not by ancestry or religious rite.

Hopefully, we don’t need a rooftop vision before we change our attitudes. May we recognize, like Peter, that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). That means everyone.

Who does God show up for? It’s not necessarily the ones with the bloodlines and religious rituals all in place. Reverence and obedience are what gets God’s attention. God’s #acceptance is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

What did you think when you heard about Kanye’s conversion? Or maybe you have another story of someone surprisingly coming to faith. Maybe the story is yours. Whatever you’d like to share, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

*I feel it necessary to note that none of us have hands that are always clean or hearts that are always pure, but through faith in Jesus, our status before God is both clean and pure. Forgiveness is a sweet, sweet thing!

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