In 1943, Charles Brown was piloting a crippled aircraft when he saw another plane off his wingtip. The other pilot made eye contact with Brown and escorted his plane to safety before saluting and flying away. The story gets better—for Charles Brown was piloting a US bomber over the skies of Germany, and the other pilot was a German flying ace named Franz Stigler! Stigler treated Brown as a friend even though they were supposed to be enemies.
That story reminds me of Acts 10. Jews and Gentiles had been in heated conflict for hundreds of years before this time: the Babylonian exile in the 600s BC (recorded in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel) followed by the Seleucid invasion of 167 BC. Jews and Gentiles were not just different people groups who inhabited the same area; they were enemies who were openly hostile to one another. So Cornelius’ conversion to Christianity didn’t represent two friends becoming closer, but instead two enemies becoming one family (Acts 10:48).
But what made this possible wasn’t good will or forgetfulness, as if Peter and Cornelius simply decided to put the past behind them. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:14 that this peace is possible because Jesus dismantled the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles through the cross—He crucified their hostility on Calvary!
Sometimes we think that reconciliation between races and nations in conflict is done through sheer force of will, as if people should just get over it. But as believers in Jesus, we don’t believe that reconciliation is built on such flimsy ground. The reason we can pursue reconciliation is that the dividing walls of hostility were crucified with Christ, and our enemies can now be family!
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Jeremiah 1:1-9
Read Galatians 3:26-28 to see how far Jesus’ work of reconciliation extends.
Do you find yourself feeling more hopeful or pessimistic when it comes to reconciliation of races and nations? How does it make you feel to know that dividing walls of hostility were crucified with Jesus?