Thursday, September 15, 2005

My Man, Cornelius. Our pastor, Van Lahmeyer, is taking us through the book of Acts. (Its a great trip with such a driver.) Recently, we looked at Cornelius in chapter 10, the Roman centurian whom God used to instruct Peter on the Gospel being meant for all people, not just the Jews. There are lots of things to say about this fascinating chapter, but one thing particularly struck me.

Cornelius is introduced as follows in verse 2:

He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

Cornelius was both pious and generous to those in need. He was a two legged man of God.

In the church in which I was raised, it was all about piety, all about "coming to Christ", daily Bible reading, and sending out missionaries. I don't remember much of anything about giving generously to those in need. The only thing that I heard along those lines was the work of medical missionaries, a not inconsequential work, to be sure, but one that was presented as sort of "bait" to get people to come to Christ, not something that stood on its own feet that Christians should do.) I would describe that as "one legged Christianity". We just sort of hopped around at our church. Its hard to prevail against the gates of Hades with an army of one-legged warriors.

(Obviously, Cornelius' generosity to those in need was not about getting those people to "come to Christ", because Cornelius had probably not himself "prayed the prayer", poor man.)

I am aware that "a text without a context is a pretext", but don't you think that the Cornelius story points us in the direction of ministering to the poor simply for the sake of their need and our plenty?

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