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.” Acts 10:25-26
When I worked in the ER, it wasn’t uncommon to care for those who’d been in motor vehicle accidents caused by an intoxicated driver. There have even been times I’ve had to tell the victims of the accident that one of their family members had been killed. As painful as that was, it was even more difficult to, at the same time, be required to provide medical care for the intoxicated individual who caused the accident in the first place.
In that situation, I felt anger at the drunk driver who caused the accident and death. At the same time though, I was supposed provide quality care for that person. I’ve got to admit, that once or twice, my anger provoked thoughts of vengeance. If this perpetrator’s life is in my hands, maybe I can execute justice right here. I knew those thoughts were horrible and I never would have acted on them, but still the temptation was there. Playing God would have been disastrous. I’m not God. Pretending to be him has terrible consequences.
In today’s passage, a man named Cornelius bowed down and worshipped Peter as a god. Peter quickly corrected the error. Stand up; I too am a man. Peter knew his place. He wasn’t God and he knew that allowing the mistake would have been evil.
That we shouldn’t play God is obvious in my ER story and in Peter’s case, but there’s a far subtler way in which we do this. As Christians, we’re supposed to live for God’s will instead of our own. We’re meant to abandon ourselves, putting God above all and loving our neighbors as ourselves. That’s what it’s like to live with God as God.
In reality, how we live though, is often completely contrary to this. Rather than live for God and neighbor, we live for ourselves. We do what we want, when we want. If God asks us to sacrifice our time, effort, or money, we find excuses. We live for our appetite, and in doing so, we make a god of ourselves.
Once again though, we make terrible gods. In following ourselves above all, we eventually make ourselves miserable. If we want to live in the joy and freedom we were made for, then daily, we must follow God as God.