God Doesn’t Show Partiality
Christ is risen!
I grew up in the volatile 1960s when the Civil Rights movement was really getting traction. I watched as a boy as marches and riots occurred around the country and our nation struggled with throwing off the scourge of racism. By the way, how is it possible that the pigmentation of someone’s skin could make them less human than someone else? It was a troubled time. And, as usual, we humans did this badly. I remember my grandfather, a retired Atlanta police officer, showing me around downtown Atlanta and the places where there used to be “colored” water fountains and “whites only” water fountains. He showed me the restaurants where there used to be the “colored” entrance in the back of the restaurant! And he did this with a mixture of “well, that’s just the way it was” and embarrassment at the way it used to be!
And yet, how often through human history have we watched and, God forgive us, even participated in dehumanizing others based on preferences and prejudices. If it is, as we Christians insist, that all humans are created in God’s image, then partiality based on how a person looks, or where a person is from is, frankly, ridiculous.
But we have to be careful here. It is also easy to fall into the current madness of “equity” and abandon all sober and sensible discernment. Just because everyone bears the image of God doesn’t mean every act or every perspective is automatically worthy of preservation or celebration. We have such a hard time with sober balance.
Look at our lesson today in Acts 10:34-43:
IN THOSE DAYS, Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
St. Peter preaches that the coming of Jesus and the coming of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost opens his eyes to how God sees all humans. This is the natural result of becoming like God because Jesus opens the way for us humans to see as God sees. And God sees us all as loved and valuable.
Peter is a good son of Israel. He knows the story of how God promised the Father of the Faith, Abraham, that God would make Abraham’s name great; that God would make Abraham’s children as numerous as the sands of the seashore; and that God would bless the whole world through Abraham. He knows the story of God delivering the nation of Israel from Egypt; how God gave His Torah, God’s Law through Moses; and how God led the people through the desert for 40 years, teaching them to depend on Him for their lives and for their insights into God’s ways. Peter knows the story of the way God gave Moses the vision of heavenly worship and how Moses was instructed to make the “Tent” of Meeting like what God showed Moses how worship was done in heaven by the angels. Peter was in a long line of Jewish people who had been shaped and formed for centuries by the stories of “God’s chosen people” and how God’s people were to live differently than those who did not have God’s wisdom for living.
But this was never meant by God to create a superior race. It was meant to be an example to all humanity how everyone was meant to be.
The Jews forgot this was eventually supposed to include everyone. And this amnesia to the truth reduced these people to something they were never meant to be: Proud of their status instead of seeing themselves as servants to the whole world. This spiritual blindness cost them so much! And our spiritual blindness is just like their spiritual blindness!
St. Methodius was born in Thessaloniki and was a military man before he became a monk on Mt. Olympus. His brother was a brilliant scholar named Constantine. Constantine was so gifted, he was made the official Librarian t Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople. He left that position after a few years and became a monk himself, taking the name Cyril. The Roman Emperor Michael sent the two brothers to the Khazars after they had asked for the Empire to send Christian missionaries to them to teach them the Orthodox Faith. Later the brothers were sent to Prince Rostislav of Moravia to do the same for this Slavic group. The brothers developed an alphabet for the Slavic converts so they could translate the liturgy and the theology books from Greek into the Slavic language so the people could pray in their own language. These brothers suffered much when certain German clergy objected to their use of the language of the people in the liturgy but even the Roman Pope approved these translations in 847 AD. The brothers spent their lives and their talents helping others know God who weren’t from their “tribe” or tongue.
Today, have you forgotten that God shows NO Partiality. Have you fallen for the trap of pride in a bloodline or a culture or even a status that makes you think that you are better than someone else? If you have, then you’re headed in the wrong direction. Our Faith is meant for everyone, and we who are God’s people, His Church, are meant to show everyone the Way Home by being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Let us honor our sacred pair of enlighteners, who, by translating the divine writings, have poured forth for us a well-spring of divine knowledge from which we draw abundantly even unto this day: We call you blessed, O Cyril and Methodius, you that stand before the throne of the Most High and intercede fervently for our souls.