In the 1960s, George Wallace was governor of the state of Alabama in the United States. America was going through great changes at that time but some, like Governor Wallace, resisted change—even good change.[1]

One thing that was changing was racial prejudice. For years, many Americans had been segregated—kept apart—from other Americans. Americans whose ancestors had come as slaves from Africa—black Americans—had been denied equality and opportunity. This was especially true in southern States like Alabama. By the 1960s, however, attitudes in much of the country had changed and most people felt that everyone should be given equal opportunity.

Some, however, resisted the change. When he first became governor, Wallace promised that there would always be segregation in Alabama. When the first African-American students were admitted to the University of Alabama, Wallace stood in the doorway to block their entrance.

Governor Wallace could not, however, stop the changes—good changes—that were occurring in Alabama and throughout America. Change came in spite of Wallace’s opposition.

Later in his life, Governor Wallace became a follower of Jesus Christ, and realized how wrong he had been. He renounced his racism and asked black people—including the students—to forgive him. He said that while he once sought power and glory, he realized he needed to seek love and forgiveness. In his final term as governor, he appointed many black Alabamians to government positions.

There is a story in the New Testament that is very similar. The earliest followers of Jesus were all Jews, descended from Abraham through his son Isaac. Although Jesus himself was a Jew, he told his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

There was, however, much to be done among the Jews, and Jesus’ disciples seemed to forget about telling the good news about Jesus to everyone.

One day, all of this changed for a man named Peter. God sent Peter a vision to show him that he should reject nothing—and no one—that God had created. While God was teaching Peter these lessons, he was also working in the life of Cornelius, a commander in the Roman army.

Not only was Cornelius not Jewish, he was part of a foreign military force occupying Peter’s country—a force that the Jewish people bitterly resented. Cornelius, however, was a man who believed in God, and who was generous toward the poor. It seems that he had rejected the pagan ideas of his culture and accepted the Jewish understanding of one God who is over the entire world. Cornelius did not know, however, that it was only by faith in Jesus that he could approach God and be in a right relationship with him.

The Bible teaches us that God earnestly desires to bring us into a relationship with him. He will do amazing things to make that possible—including sending Jesus into the world to live and to die for us. And he will do amazing things to let us know what he has done for us.

God sent a heavenly messenger to tell Cornelius to send for Peter. Of course, the angel himself could have told Cornelius about Jesus, but God was not just interested in Cornelius—he also had something to teach Peter and all who were already following Jesus.

When the men that Cornelius had sent came looking for Peter, he understood what God had been trying to teach him. Peter not only taught Cornelius and his family about Jesus and baptized them into Jesus Christ, he stayed in their home and ate with them for several days. That was an act that would have made him ritually unclean in the eyes of the Jews.

When the Jewish Christians heard what Peter had done, some of them questioned and criticized him. But Peter explained how he had arrived in Cornelius’ house and how he had unmistakably seen that God had accepted their faith. Peter asked, “If God gave to them the same gift He gave to us after we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I stand against God?”[2]

When the importance of what had happened finally sank in, the Jewish believers began praising God, as they exclaimed, “It's really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”[3]

God not only worked to bring salvation to Cornelius and his household, he also saved the church of that day from continuing in deeply worn patterns of prejudice and exclusion. Sadly, there have been times when Jesus’ followers have slipped back into those patterns, but that is not God’s will for his people.

What about you? What are the patterns in your life—patterns of prejudice, pride, resentment toward other people, habits that do not honor God—that God wants you to change? What about God’s work in your own life? He wants to draw you into a close relationship with him.

Ask yourself the same question Peter asked, “Who am I to think that I can oppose God?”

Don’t oppose God, but join with him in opening your heart to him, and to all the people he has created!


[1] Information about George Wallace is taken from the article “George Wallace” found at .  Viewed 9 March 2007.

[2] Acts 11:17, New Life Version (NLV)

[3] Acts 11:18, MSG

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