When you think of Heaven, what image comes to your head? For me, it’s golden streets, big mansions, and beautiful open fields. Okay, next question. When you think of the people in Heaven, who comes to your head? I automatically picture people who look like me. Not that they all have red hair and glasses, but that they were baptized as infants and went to a church with an altar and a pulpit and sang hymns and took the common cup. I’d be willing to bet that you see people who are similar to yourself, too. It’s that old joke about Lutherans (or Catholics, or people from fill-in-the-blank denomination) being surprised to find people from other church bodies in Heaven.
In Acts chapter 10, Peter met some people that he wouldn’t have expected to see in Heaven – Gentiles. He was led to them by the Spirit. After he spent some time with them, he realized what it was that the Spirit wanted him to see. “While he was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God” (verses 44-46).
Peter could have ignored the Spirit’s calling or refused to see the Spirit’s lesson. No one would have blamed him, for all who were with him were Jews. But when Peter saw what was happening, he said in verse 47, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” He expanded his vision. He saw that all people could receive the Holy Spirit, not just Jews. From then on, when Peter thought of the people in Heaven, he saw Jews AND Gentiles.
We can learn an important lesson from Peter. We tend to exclude those who don’t look like us. However, nowhere in the Bible does it say that only people just like us will go to Heaven. On the contrary, it says that all kinds of people will go to Heaven – Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slave and free (Galatians 3:28). Instead of treating others with disdain, we should include them and treat them with love and respect. If they too have received the Holy Spirit, then they too are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have the same goal, and that is most important.