Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. 2 But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. 3 “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said. Acts 11:1-3, NLT.
I spent a few years living in a Christian bubble: Christian friends, Christian music, Christian books. These things aren’t bad … in fact, they a still a huge part of my life. One day, God pushed me out of the bubble. Suddenly I was hostess around a table to many who weren’t believers. So, I served them. I showed hospitality and inclusion to them (and their kids). I welcomed them. This was all God’s doing. He planned that party, so to speak.
When I read these verses in Acts today, I wonder what the world would have been like if these men had limited their influence.
17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” Acts 11:17-18, NLT.
Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-21, NLT.
I read a heated thread of fury on a social media feed this week. One person said (of Christians) that the basis of (our) religion is to cram it down other people’s throats (then he referenced a scripture about spreading the gospel). I felt horrified and grieved. I didn’t comment for several reasons, one being that it was obviously a battle ground for attack, and not a forum for understanding. But I did wonder: how is it that they perceived Christians in this light? What experiences (or lack of) have others had with Christians to describe them in such a way? How does one go from being good/full of the Spirit/strong in the faith to throat crammer? In my daily interactions, what do people notice first: his love or an agenda? (I can think of times when all someone was interested in was sticking a tract in my hands rather than asking my name or about my story. At the time, it made me mad.)
24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) Acts 11:24-26, NLT.
I take some cues from these scriptures today, about sitting across from someone (perhaps over a meal like Peter), and spending time with them (investing in their lives like Barnabas and Saul/Paul).
In what ways has God given you opportunities to invest in the life of another?
Lord, you’ve wired us all in unique ways. Show us opportunities to glorify your name. Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth.