The astonishing amiability
“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am a man.’ And as he talked with him, he went in.” Acts 10:25-27
“As he talked with him . . . .” Peter reassured Cornelius with small talk as the two men turned to enter Cornelius’ home. It’s easy to picture it. Peter stands Cornelius up again and after an awkward pause, “So, uh, what do you think of the Titans’ season? And what a lovely family you have. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Cornelius. And who’s this? Cornelius Jr? Howdy, son. What’s your favorite subject at school?” Just small talk. Ernst Haenchen, Acts, page 358, refers to “the astonishing amiability with which this sublime man comes to the Gentiles even though such conduct is in the eyes of the devout Jew a breach of the law.” All his life Peter’s culture had told him, “The dwelling-places of Gentiles are unclean” (Mishnah, Oholoth, 18.7). The Gentiles had cooties. But the gospel of grace greater than all our culture (as well as greater than all our sin) freed Peter, as it frees us, to meet everyone with new openness and to help them feel comfortable.
Small talk too has a place in the ministry of the gospel.