The Acts of the Apostles is full of radical change, divinely inspired and enabled. Sent by the Spirit, Philip goes to the excluded Ethiopian eunuch, explains the scripture and baptizes him.[i] Saul, notorious persecutor of the church, meets Jesus and radically changes into Paul, famous evangelist.[ii] The Spirit sends Peter to the centurion Cornelius. Though unlawful to visit let alone eat with Gentiles, Peter does both, proclaims the gospel and the household follows Jesus.[iii]
The Spirit reaches further and further. Gentiles receive the Spirit in the same way as the Jews. It is an unsettling time for the Jewish followers of Jesus. They hotly debate inclusion of outsiders. Leaders gather in Jerusalem to respond to this crisis. James, Jesus’ brother, leads the gathering to affirm huge change, to welcome Gentiles, all people, as equal followers of Jesus. James discerns that the present crisis fits the grand narrative promise: all people may seek God.
Doing so fits with Jesus welcoming all kinds people outcast: women, foreigners, the sick, and children. Many people cling to labels like Gentile and sinner, but not Jesus. Jesus loves everyone no matter what. Jesus invites everyone into more. Jesus changes and keeps becoming more.
When Jesus went to teach in his home town, people asked: Where did he get all this wisdom? Can this really be the child we knew?[iv] They clung to sticky memories though Jesus had grown up and changed. Jesus knows what it feels like to be dismissed and rejected.
Who is difficult for you to accept? To acknowledge that they have changed and that they can change further? Perhaps a neighbor or colleague or family member.
What has changed or is changing in yourself that’s hard to accept?
By God’s invitation and grace, who are you becoming?
Such change may present a crisis, might be confusing or painful. Like James, listen for God amid it all. Listen for what is just and divine, not simply sticky. Following Jesus means ongoing radical change which God invites and enables, extending further, embracing wider, each and together becoming more.
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