Something New is Coming
Transition often includes new places and usually new faces. When people are a part of a transition equation, making a good first impression can pave the way for future encounters. Consider military protocol. When a military dignitary arrives, a protocol officer ensures the correct implementation of introductions, seating arrangements, and other details for a successful visit.
The meeting between Cornelius, an officer of an occupying army, and Peter, a leader of a fast-growing religious movement, could be categorized today as a Key Leader Engagement. Such an event would require a protocol officer. For Peter to enter the home of a person whom his community called a Gentile dog, and for Cornelius to acknowledge a god who opposed his commander-in-chief, Caesar, as a deity, was likely to be awkward on both sides. External factors surrounding this meeting likely raised the anxiety-level for this key step of transition.
If proper protocol were followed in this social climate:
Cornelius, a unit commander, would have traveled to seek an audience with Peter, the religious leader.
Peter, and the Jews with him, would have never agreed to meet in a Gentile home.
Cornelius would not have bowed down to Peter because it was an offense to worship anyone but God.
Who set up this meeting, anyway? Oh yeah, God! And God decided to establish his own protocol. When Peter entered the house of Cornelius he “refused both to be treated by Cornelius as if he were a god, and to treat Cornelius as if he were a dog.”
Peter’s presence in the home of Cornelius communicates a radical adjustment in his attitude toward the Gentiles. The wall between Jews and Gentiles started to crumble as these two men responded to God’s new direction.
In the midst of a major transition, we may not have a good handle on the significance of the big picture. However, we can focus on those new individuals with whom we come face-to-face. When God is the protocol officer behind the scenes, every person with whom we cross paths may play an important role in God’s plan, both for us and for them.