When I was a young boy in the Netherlands in the early 1940s, twice every Sunday, we went to a church in the Reformed tradition. On occasion, there would be some German soldiers in attendance. The occupying forces were mostly older men who were stationed in the Netherlands for a longer period of time, some for several years, and as a consequence, they learned to understand or even speak the language to some extent. Obviously, the ones attending church were Christians who felt the need to come to worship on a Sunday morning or afternoon, so they came to our church. Quite often, the people in church would look at them, nudge their neighbour in the pew, and glance in their direction, as if to say, "Look! Here they are again!" I don't know what the adults thought about them, but as a child, I just could not figure out why they were there. After all, they were the enemy, the unwelcome occupiers of the country. We were encouraged to avoid them, to thoroughly dislike them, and, dare I say it, to hate them.
Thinking about this made me wonder what the Jewish Christians, shortly after the time of Jesus, thought about some of the Roman occupiers, "the enemy", who had become believers in Christ. There are several passages in the Bible which tell us that there were Romans who sought out Jesus and believed in Him.
Last fall, we studied a big portion of the Book of Acts in my Bible class at the local Long Term Care Centre, and we were intrigued by the fact that Peter, a Jewish Christian, went to see Cornelius, a Roman. In a vision, he had been told that, to God, all people are the same. When he got to Caesarea, he even went into the house of Cornelius — imagine, associating with the enemy! — and while there, he started his speech this way:
Acts 10:28,34b-35 – You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (NKJV)
It became clear to Peter that all believers are one in the Lord. As a well-known hymn says it so beautifully:
- In Christ there is no east or west,
In Him no south or north,
But one great fellowship of love,
Throughout the whole wide earth.
– John Oxenham
It is clear that in these days of refugee migrations, Christians need to reach out to the aid of our Christian brothers and sisters, and also to help those of other faiths, because everyone needs to know the saving message of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5:44 – But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (NKJV)
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, it is our prayer that Christians everywhere will help oppressed people, being aware that believers are all one in the Lord, and everyone needs the opportunity to believe in Jesus. We offer this prayer in Jesus' name. Amen.