Wednesday, May 09, 2012

How impartial are you?

"The Baptism of a Centurion" by Michel Corneille the Elder - 17th Century

 TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 10:23b-48

TO CHEW ON: “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.’” Acts 10:34

Though Canadian society pays lip service to being impartial, discrimination is all around us. We make judgments about people on the basis of the color of their skin and their ability to speak English. We fawn over entertainers and sports heroes while heaping scorn on folks in other professions simply because of the career they’ve chosen. (Currently it’s fashionable to dump on the police and politicians. Of course TV evangelists are always suspect, as is anyone who speaks out against abortion, human-caused global warming and for creation science. And good luck getting a job in the Canadian civil service if you are a middle-class Caucasian male.)

Thankfully God sees through all veneers. He doesn’t give us more points if our skin is white or colored, speak perfect English or broken, dress with fashion savvy or in the dumpy clothes we’ve hung onto since the '80s. He sees past our variegated pasts, our personality quirks, and the lines, wrinkles, and gray hair that declare us past our best-before dates.

Here he saw the sincerity of Cornelius’s heart. He saw how this Gentile had acted on the knowledge that he had, proving himself a man of prayer and generosity. As a result when God sent Peter to Cornelius to explain the gospel more fully and baptized him and his household with the Holy Spirit, He gave Cornelius a gift that was probably beyond anything this Roman centurion had imagined.


Impartiality is a godly attitude. God is:

- Impartial to worldly rank, power and wealth (Job 34:18-19).
- Impartial in lavishing good natural gifts on all mankind (Matthew 5:44,45).
- Impartial regardless of nationality (Acts 10:34-36).
- Impartial between Jews and Gentiles (Romans 2:9-11; Romans 10:12).
- Impartial in ways we don’t always understand (Matthew 20:13-15).


The standard for us as God-followers is to be impartial too. We are to be:

- Impartial in the face of wealth and position (Leviticus 19:15).
- Impartial in judgment (Deuteronomy 1:17).
- Impartial in the face of the temptation to make an unjust, though popular judgment (Proverbs 18:5).
- Impartial in appointing leaders (1 Timothy 5:21-22).
- Impartial in loving and accepting our Christian brothers and sisters (James 2:1-9).

Though we will never have the insight into people that God has, we can cultivate His generous, fair heart of acceptance and love. Showing impartiality (like God and Peter showed to Cornelius) is another way we can fit in with His grand purpose of helping to further His kingdom on earth.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize prejudice and bias in myself. Help me to see others through Your eyes. Amen.

MORE: More about 'impartiality'
"This (the concept of 'impartiality') is such a major truth about God that the New Testament seems to invent a word for it - several words. Before the New Testament there are no instances of the word used here  (Romans 2:11-16) for "partiality" or "respecter of persons." The idea was there in the Old Testament: God does not "receive face," they would say, that is, he is "impartial" - he is not moved by irrelevant external appearances. He sees through them and goes to the heart of the matter and is not partial to appearance and circumstance. Nobody breaks the rules and gets away with it, no matter how powerful or clever or wealthy or networked. All are judged by the same measure.

In the New Testament this was so important to make clear that the writers took these two words, "receive face" and combined them into a new verb in James 2:9 - "be-a-face-receiver" (prospolempteo) - and two new nouns - "a-face-receiver" (prosopolemptes, Acts 10:34) and "face-receiving" (prosopolempsia, Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25, James 2:1). There is no "face-receiving" with God, Paul says" - John Piper.
-Read all of "There is no Partiality With God - Part 1" - By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:
 (From the archives)

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