3.10 Acts -- The Conversion of Peter, cont.
The baptism of Cornelius is the death-knell of religious racism. If God "does not show favoritism," "is no respecter of persons," "shows no partiality," then it is required of believers that they act accordingly. This applies both to the proclamation of the Gospel (it must be offered to all), and to the inter-relationships of believers. This is not a paean in favor of universal equality: it does not abolish variations of gifts and callings in the church, it does not address sex roles. The context is clearly racial discrimination, the moral elevation of one nation or skin color above all the rest; or the corollary -- the denigration of one race below all others.
The most extensive historical violation of this declaration is the centuries of white supremacy and colonialism. However, no one is off the hook. Many Oriental cultures have long-standing traditions of contempt for other races. Traditional Indian society is structured along caste lines. In Western countries, some minority groups adopt ingrown, self-centered, "survival" mentalities which maintain adversarial relations with the majority group. All of these are examples of attitudes and behaviors which are inconsistent with the Kingdom of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. No ideology is Scripturally justifiable if it violates this bedrock principle of the Kingdom of God: "no partiality."
This is the challenge of the New Covenant -- it is contrary to the "spirit of the age" and to every cultures' traditions. The opportunity is given to every believer -- to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, or to resist Him by going along with the voices of racial or class solidarity. The church's mission can never be skewed so that it favors "my" group at the expense of others (for example, Jewish widows over Hellenistic ones). The Kingdom actively opposes all human relationships that imply differences in essence, moral worth, quality -- whether the rationale is a religious or a secular ideology. The attempt to make such distinctions in the name of Christianity is a betrayal of the Gospel.