Read: Acts 10:34-43 NRSV
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every people anyone who fears him and practices righteousness is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
The book of Acts is a wonderful guide to mission work: we hear the disciples explaining the story of Jesus to different audiences with varying degrees of understanding. Peter is speaking before a gentile named Cornelius, and some gathered witnesses in Caesarea. He begins by acknowledging that it is unlawful for a Jew to visit or associate with a gentile, but then explains that God has made clean what was once unclean.
New religious sects were very common in the ancient world. Jesus was not the first Jewish man to claim to be the Messiah, and many rulers called themselves sons of god. Religion often spread by conquest and force, and almost no belief system relied on evangelism to spread.
Christianity was radical in many ways, not only because the believers evangelized other Jews, but also sought out people who had been their historic enemies and sought to convert them through acts of love and charity. Those of us who have been raised in “the shadow of the colossus,” as G.K. Chesterton writes, may find it difficult to understand what an enormous departure this was from every other religion at the time. We also may find ourselves setting up similar divisions of race, class, and culture that Jesus had torn down with his death. “Do not call anything unclean that God has made clean.”