Today’s Bible readings can be found at this link: Isaiah 9:13-21 and Acts 15:1-21.
Acts 15:8-9 “God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith.” (NIV)
It must have come as a great shock to some religious traditionalists that Paul and Barnabas were preaching Christ’s Gospel to the Gentiles. For generations, the people of God had assumed that their way of doing things was perfect and could only be properly accomplished by keeping their religion pure. They faithfully accepted Christ as their Savior but were not too happy to give Him away to outsiders. They believed that Jesus was their exclusive Messiah and that they were being rewarded for their faithfulness, so why should renegades like Paul and Barnabas carelessly share the Good News of salvation with anyone who was willing to listen and accept Christ for themselves?
They had good intentions about keeping Christianity under the umbrella of tradition, but they had forgotten how radical Christ had been when He ministered on Earth. He never turned away outsiders, but instead, He took opportunities to meet, heal, and tell them about God’s Kingdom. He even asked God to forgive them when the Gentile Romans nailed Him to the Cross. This was a sign of how boundless God’s grace was, but those who sought to control Christian faith after His death had either forgotten His expansive ministry or chose to ignore it.
As Christians in the world, we are meant to be the same type of gracious and boundless people. If we discard or discount others because they are outsiders – religiously, culturally, or racially – then we have forgotten who Christ was and what His ministry still is today. If we are fearful, we will want to keep Jesus for ourselves in a belief box of our own making; however, if we are faithful, we will want to share His mercy, grace, and love with everyone, no matter who they are, where they come from, or whatever they do. Remember, we were all once outside of His fold and enemies of God, so why shouldn’t the same opportunity of Good News and Salvation, kindness and love be shown and given to all?
Point to ponder: Whom do I consider to be outsiders in my life? How can I show and share Christ’s love and God’s compassion with them?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we get so caught up in trying to serve and please You that we forget to spread Your Gospel by sharing Your love with others who are outside of our circle of faith. Forgive us for narrowing Your grace and help us to overcome our fears of those who are different by seeing them with Your eyes and loving them with God’s heart. In your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
Today’s image is one of John’s original drawings called ‘Eternal Mystery of Trinity.’ If you would like to view a larger version, click here.