WITH ALL THE “US” AND “THEM” going on around the world these days, there are clues in the Bible about how to handle that problem.
The problem of “Us” and “Them” has been around for a long time. Peter dealt with it at the very beginning of Christianity, which started as a Jewish Messianic movement…all the first Christians where Jews who taught that Jesus was the Messiah God had promised to send to save them.
Acts 11. Peter’s colleagues become his critics
Peter defends baptizing non-Jews
11:1. Word spread that non-Jews had accepted the message of God and joined the group of believers. The apostles heard about it. So did other believers who were scattered all over the territory of Judea.
11:2. When Peter got back to Jerusalem, criticism greeted him. Jews who followed Jesus were not happy.
11:3. They said, “Hey, you went into the house of uncircumcised men—they weren’t our people! You even ate with them!”
11:4. Peter calmly told them what happened. He started at the beginning.
11:5. “I was in the city of Joppa. When I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. An object came down from the sky. It looked like a giant bedsheet getting lowered from all four corners. It came down next to me.
11:6. I looked to see what was inside. I saw four-footed animals, wild animals, some reptiles, and some birds.
11:7. Then I heard a voice. It said, ‘Get up, Peter. Go butcher something and eat it.’
11:8. But I said, ‘No way, sir. These animals aren’t kosher. I’ve never eaten anything but kosher food.’
11:9. But the voice answered, ‘What God has cleaned is kosher. So don’t think it’s not.’
11:10. This happened three times to me. Then everything lifted back into the sky.
11:11. Now listen. At that very moment three men arrived at the house where I was staying. They came from Caesarea with a message for me.
11:12. The Spirit told me to go with them right away. So I went. Six believers came with me. When we got there, we went inside the man’s house.
11:13. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house. He said the angel told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa. Tell them to go and get a man named Simon, also known as Peter.
11:15. Well, as I started to talk to the group, the Holy Spirit came and entered everyone in the house. It reminded me of the first time the Spirit came to us.
11:16. Then I remembered something the Lord said: ‘John baptizes people with water. But you’re going to get baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
11:17. So here’s the question. If God gave those non-Jewish people the same gift he gave us when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
11:18. When Peter’s critics heard that, they shut up. When they finally spoke again, it was to praise God for what Peter reported. They said, “My goodness. God is inviting even the non-Jews to reject their sinful way of living. He’s giving them eternal life, too.”
 11:1. See note 1:2.
 11:1. See note 10:37.
 11:14. “Everyone in your home” would likely include family as well as slaves—everyone under the authority of Cornelius, the head of the household.
 11:14. “Saved” to live again after dying—eternal life (11:18; Luke 21:19).
 11:18. The Greek word refers to “repentance.”
This excerpt is from the Casual English Bible, an easy-reading Bible paraphrase I’ve been working on. At the moment, I’ve been adding maps to the Gospel of Luke. Acts already has a bunch of maps. Like this one. I’ve bundled them with a leader’s guide in a 70-page PDF that’s downloadable for a buck. The guide has hundreds of Q&A for small-group Bible study.