“Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision,…”’
To be honest, I dove into writing this weekly devotional without a lot of forethought or planning. I just knew that this year, everyone is “beginning again” after the past few years. I thought a weekly devotional that “goes back to basics” might be helpful. After I made the decision to do this, I thought and prayed about how best to do it: Should I write several series on topics of interest from a Biblical perspective? Should I write about hot button issues, and maybe get a few more reads/views? I decided to do something simpler – something not as flashy. I chose to read and reflect on the Book of Acts.
Acts is about the first, few years of the church. And it’s about the new disciples, trying to figure out how to do this new thing that Jesus told them to do – go and make more “disciples”: Go, and make more people who follow Jesus. That is the mission of the church, in every place and time, and yet it plays itself out in specific ways, unique to the people of that place and time. As we see in our passage for today, it meant that Peter had to do something that most of his people thought he shouldn’t do: Go and hang out with – eat a meal with – “those people (Gentiles)”.
We certainly live in a time when when a lot of money, time and effort is spent on keeping a hateful eye on “those people”, rather than developing a Jesus-like heart for each person. But this is also something Peter had to deal with: Namely, the temptation to stick to “my people”. To help him out of that bind, God gave Peter a vision, and a clear command to go to and eat with “those people”, because God loves them – because God wants to invite them into the Kingdom family of Jesus followers.
We are sent, like Peter, to people we might not choose to hang out with, because that is how God does his Kingdom work of creating a new family in Christ. There are some days when I want to throw my hands up, and say: “Well, there’s really no point – they seem so captured by that idea – that ideology – that I don’t have a prayer….” But I do. And you do, too. We have prayer, and that’s where God’s power and purpose come to each of us, and equips us to reach out to that person – those people – and trust Him for the result. If we begin with prayer that asks to become more like Jesus, then maybe “those people” will become “our brothers and sisters”.
Prayer: Lord, every day I feel kind of helpless, and – honestly – sometimes defeated, about how desperate things seem. Everyone seems to want to go their own way, and it would just be a lot easier for me to stick to “my people”. But, Lord, I know you want to change my heart, and give me strength to do the hard, right thing: Meet my neighbor where he/she is, and invite them into your family. Please give me strength and wisdom to do that. Amen.