Friday, January 10, 2020

God and Man

Peter has always had a way of getting in trouble. Just when you think he's got his head on straight, Jesus has to chastise him again for this or that or the other. And you'd think that once Jesus is resurrected, confirms Peter's love for Him, calls Peter to shepherd His sheep, and commissions him, Peter would finally have things sorted out.

But we get just a little ways into Acts (11), and Peter's in trouble again.

This time, for eating with the Gentiles.

It was a big no-no. A faithful, devout, righteous Jew eating non-kosher foods with the rabble. I mean, sure, Jesus did it, but Peter's not Jesus. And to be honest, there are more than a few persons who are trying to rewrite some things about the new faith and make sure that distasteful part isn't anywhere in there. They want to clean up this Jewish Jesus and make something distinctly Hebrew out of Him. You can't really do that if His disciples are going to go around eating with Gentiles.

So Peter's in trouble, and he comes to his own defense in a most brilliant way: with two visions.

The first vision is the one he saw from God, where a sheet with all kinds of foods was lowered down from the heavens again and again and again until he understood that whatever God has made clean is clean. Period. It was the angel's testimony to him that it was okay to eat, that there was something greater to be gained by the eating than the abstaining.

The second vision is the one he saw with his own eyes in real time, in real flesh and blood. And that was a vision of men. Specifically, of Gentiles, who had received the same Holy Spirit that the Jews had. Who had prophesied and danced and believed just the same way that they had.

End of story.

You can't argue with that. It's bulletproof. "Here's what God said, and here's how it's actually working in the real world." If God says it's truth and it's working in the real places where we live, what else is there to talk about?

Too many of us are content with one or the other. We say that something is God's idea, and that's enough for us. It doesn't have to work out well. It doesn't have to make a difference. This is the kind of thing we get when we hold to absolute truth without love - God said it, it's a thing, so deal with it...but it's leaving a lot of destruction in its wake the way that we apply it.

Or we look at the world and say, "Here's what's working. It doesn't matter what God says about it - look how happy and successful and functional this idea is for real human beings." And that's enough for us. If persons are making it work, then it's worth holding onto. And this is grace without truth - a willy-nilly sort of existence where anything goes because there's no standard to which to hold it accountable.

But Peter shows us how it's done. He shows us that it's both. It's God and man. It's truth and grace. It's a belief and an action. It's two stories coming together in one.

And isn't that how God's always done it?

So in any situation, that's really what we have to look for, and that's what we have to be able to point out. What does God say? And how's that working out?

If God says it's truth and it's working in the real places where we live, there's not much else to talk about.

End of story. 

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