Archive for January 11th, 2008

How We ‘Acts’ in This World

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Today’s scripture: Acts 28:17-22 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Mark Shoup):

I have said it before, but I think it bears repeating. People in an Emerging Church, particularly one with a lot of GLBT people in it, will have an experience that is similar to the book of Acts. Let me explain.

The entire book of Acts is about the spreading of the news of Christ to people who had not yet heard about Him, or were expecting someone completely different. In many cases, they had been conditioned by their faith tradition to expect a great ruler, and were therefore not likely to believe the son of a carpenter who was born in a stable was actually the Messiah. People in Emerging Churches face similar challenges as we tell of a God who loves us unconditionally and is not standing over us just waiting to smite us for the smallest infraction.

In some ways, I think people want to believe in a harsh God because it gives meaning to their harsh lives. It also gives them license to be harsh with others. It sure does take a lot more energy to try to understand where somebody is coming from than to dismiss them with a snide remark. This is why when we tell people that you can be gay and Christian, or that God doesn’t stop loving someone if they have had an abortion, we are told we are going to Hell or are abominations. Its just much easier to condemn than to try understand why we believe that way. Some believe that if religion isn’t harsh, it must not be of God.

It was the same way in Acts. Most of the time when Jews were told of the good news about Jesus, their response was to curse the speaker, sometimes even to the point of killing them! So great was their outrage that usually the Gentiles were far more accepting of the news, and it wasn’t even their religion!

The same can be true today. Who is more likely to recognize a 20-year committed relationship between two people of the same sex, your average Christian (who is supposed to be full of the love of God), or a humanist atheist?

I have a coworker friend who was getting married a few years ago and her Church refused to marry her because she had started living with her boyfriend. What they didn’t know — and didn’t care enough to find out — was that she had been brutally raped years prior to this and the rapist was at that time due to be released from prison. He had written a letter to her saying “he was coming for her soon”, and she was terrified to live without her fiancé’s protection. She ended up attending and getting married in a more accepting Church than the one that could hardly contain its glee in rejecting her as a “sinner.”

Thought for the day: Am I compassionate towards other marginalized people? Do I continue to spread the good news of Jesus, even if I’m misunderstood or marginalized by other Christians?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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