So I spent some time in the book of Acts recently. I delved into Acts based on something I learned at a training class I attended in New Jersey. Specifically, I read about Peter’s interaction with Cornelius found in the tenth chapter. In this chapter, Peter makes the decision to include gentiles in the work of Jesus.
Peter and many of the early church founders saw their movement as a Jewish movement, not one that would include gentiles. Yet, God implored Peter to look beyond his Jewish roots. As Peter meets Cornelius, we hear him say:
“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”
Paul, like Peter, also believed that the good news of Jesus should be shared with the gentiles. These two men changed the world with their decision. It was not necessarily popular with the other church leaders and founders. And yet because of it, billions of people today know the name of Jesus.
Organizations and movements change. That’s the way of the world. Just think how things may be different if Peter and Paul hadn’t sought to include gentiles!
The church is in a continuous state of change, whether those changes are seen or hidden. Sometimes the understanding of “who’s in and who’s out” changes too. Occasionally God guides us in directions that are unexpected. It’s the way of the spirit.
We can say the same thing on a personal level with our relationships, our callings and our understanding of the world. Keeping to our understanding is important, but God can and will change our hearts and move us to places we never imagined.
Knowing that God can move us in different directions is a beautiful thing. We can change our lives and our institutions if given the spirit to do so. This understanding allows us the freedom to make changes as deemed necessary; we don’t have to lament at the state of our society, our relationships and the like. We can make them better!
Making change in our churches, our communities and our world requires us to do many things. It requires us to listen for the voice of God in our midst. It requires us to get to know one another and commit to the things we believe in. It requires us to learn from one another. And finally, it requires us to commit and act together.
As we go into 2017, I am excited about many things. But building relationships, learning from scripture and each other and working together toward a better future for our communities are the three things I am looking forward to most. Not just because I am hopeful, but also because I know there is power in people acting together. And God will lead the way.