“In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”—Colossians 2:3.
“What do you want to be known for?”
This was the question that the guest speaker of graduation ceremonies at Texas Tech asked the year I graduated in 2007. Now, as then, graduation ceremonies for high schools and colleges are sprouting up across the nation. If I had a question to ask each graduate, I believe it would be like the one posed at mine: How do you want people to think of you?
In Acts, Peter wanted to be remembered as doing the right thing. He tells Jesus ,“Not I!” when asked to eat unclean meat — something no orthodox Jew would have done. Yet, Jesus calls Peter beyond what was right to what was true: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
What followed was the baptism of the Gentile Cornelius and the continued growth of the church. Why? Humility. “Who was I to think I could stand in Gods way?”(Acts 11:17). This text has potentially liberating but also devastating applications.
First, Peter baptizes a foreigner not because he feels like I but because Christ did. I have a hard time with fanatical, extreme Christians because Peter was extreme, and it took the cross for Peter to realize what defines a follower of Christ is not only truth but understanding (Colossians 2:3).
In other words, Peter’s actions indicate that Christ takes sin seriously and that unlike Peter, Jesus has not sinned. “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”(John 8:7).
Such words had to have reminded Peter of how far he must go when the Spirit came down on Cornelius. Second, repentance is the response to Christ — not the requirement. Too often, I hear that people must “get right” with the Lord to be saved like a fee to get in the club. Yet, Cornelius and His family began to praise God while Peter was preaching! (Acts 10:44).
Through Peter’s message, they were responding to the risen Christ who was calling them. How? With praise! Then, they were baptized. Have I presented salvation in Christ as a requirement? Have you? Paul’s answer is clear. We all have, and it’s a sin to do so (Romans 3:9).
It is important for denominations to have standards and requirements, but salvation in Christ has none. Graduates, moms and dads, ladies and gentlemen: Be known as someone who lived, preached and loved Christ. Your family, church, community and world depend on it.
John Thomas is pastor at Carroll Springs United Methodist Church.