What I’m Reading Today: Acts 11
From the earliest days of our country’s founding, lots of folks have believed that we enjoyed special status (or at least special standing) in the eyes of God. There are those who would point out many of those who first arrived in the United States were fleeing religious persecution in Europe so that makes us special. Many of these same folks overlook the religious persecution those Protestant settlers heaped upon the Catholic folks who settled - but I digress.
In the days of the Louisiana Purchase, many others quickly became proponents of a philosophy/theology known as Manifest Destiny that suggested the expansion of the United States was a part of God’s larger plan.
Even today, some will talk about the United States as if it were a Christian nation that enjoyed special blessings because of its relationship with God.
All of these things tell me that many of us seem hard-wired to want to believe that of all the groups on the planet – God likes our group the best. I can certainly understand the temptation to think like that. I just don’t happen to believe that’s true (regardless of what group you try to build your case.)
And why don’t I?
Largely because of both my personal experience of God and my understanding of my faith tradition. You see early Christians duked it out over who had the correct idea regarding how to grow the faith. The pillars of the faith tradition (Peter, James & John) at first believed the only legitimate way to grow the faith was by maintaining practices from their original faith tradition – practices such as observing rules of table fellowship and circumcision. Others emphasized the growth among Gentiles.
Eventually the matter got settled through the early experiences of individuals like Peter – and the Christian community (or at least segments of it) began to wake up to the notion that God doesn’t play favorites. In today’s reading, for example, the author(s) wrote: “Hearing it all laid out like that, [the crowd] quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started professing God. ‘It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”
You may not have thought God played favorites when it comes to things like nations or perhaps even religious traditions, but today I would invite you to dig down to other levels and ask yourself, “Is there a part of me that believe that God’s love and grace is held back behind walls or boundaries of some sort?” A part that says, “While God’s love and embrace is great, it surely couldn’t include such and such!”
If so, take time to repeat to yourself those wonderfully expansive words from today’s passage: “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other [and here – you can fill in the blank for yourself], opened them up to Life!” – and give thanks!
Til next time…