Mission, Unity and Love
Mighty God, Your will stands firm forever; Your truth endures from age to age. I give all praise to You.
Read Acts 11:1-18
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Breaking a church tradition can meet with serious pushback. But when we clearly see that God is doing a new thing, we must stand firm.
What a contrast between the joyful scene of Cornelius’ conversion and Peter’s return to the church in Jerusalem! Coming home, Peter runs into a storm of criticism from conservative, Jewish believers (2). His response is a model of Christian grace and humility: he simply recounts his own experience, emphasizing over and again that he merely followed where the Holy Spirit clearly led. Interestingly, he describes the outpouring of the Spirit upon his hearers as coming at the point where he was just “starting to speak” (15). Either his memory was playing tricks with him, or he had actually intended an extremely lengthy sermon! He now adds that when the Spirit came, he suddenly recalled the words of Jesus concerning the promise of the baptism with the Holy Spirit (16). It was as if he was saying, “Now I see it; that is what the Lord meant!”
The outcome of this defense of cross-cultural mission is that the conservative believers who had never gone beyond the confines of Jerusalem come to recognize that God has been the real actor in this drama. He used Peter to grant the Gentiles “repentance unto life” (18). The question for us is this: can we handle criticism and opposition from believers, who may seem utterly out of touch with the realities of mission, with the same grace as Peter. Peter had witnessed the emergence of a new and unanticipated form of the church. Similar tensions can arise today when people responding to the Spirit go far beyond the confines of existing traditions. Will they imitate Peter’s determination to maintain unity and love; and will the defenders of the tradition be able to recognize where God is at work and celebrate the mission of God, the divine plan and purpose for the healing and salvation of the world?
How can you distinguish between a trend and a fad? Can you think of a time when God’s Word showed you clearly that a trend was God’s will?
Gracious Lord, help me to truly rejoice at every sign around me of Your grace active in people’s lives.
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