by Liz Young
(Based on Acts 11:1-18)
My thoughts and those of the Online Bible organization on Acts chapter 11. May they enlighten and enthuse you.
Jesus’s teachings and his redemption are for us all: Jews and Gentiles alike.
I was reminded last week of all the Jewish friends I’ve had, as many Jews go into medicine; in particular, David Baum a neonatologist at Bristol who organized a multi religious service for paediatricians in the UK, at York Minster, and for whom as a student I enlisted the help of a Jewish flatmate, so I could offer him a kosher dinner.
In this chapter in Acts we hear of Peter’s dream of a feast, a feast of non-kosher food. This was God’s preparation of Peter’s mindset, to expand his expectation of sharing Christ’s teachings to the Jews, with going on to share it with all people regardless of the culture they had been born into. Peter took six Jews with him to witness how the Holy Spirit was working through him, to share the Gospel, the Good News, with Gentiles who had not had a life time of following Jewish rituals.
Israel had been God’s chosen people for centuries, keeping God’s teaching safe from infiltration by other local religions. But Jesus taught that everyone, anyone of any nation, who turns to him in repentance will benefit from his love: and Paul also wrote, “Gentiles who turn to Christ have become fellow heirs, fellow sharers in the promise of Christ through the Gospel.”
We have to understand that although it is God’s purpose to provide our salvation, he would like each of us, in person, to participate in passing on his message. He sent his message to Peter in a dream, the dream of a feast of forbidden bounty, but Peter had to interpret that message and preach it, to pass it on to the Gentiles. We can preach by thought and word and deed: altering our mindsets, preaching encouraging words, acting on our thoughts, and loving others every moment of the day: helping people witnessing our actions to understand Christ’s message: Salvation comes from God.
But we, weak and feeble humans, social animals, have to carefully choose our moments to offer help, consolation and encouragement when the time is right. Not to be too pushy, but to be emotionally intelligent in our encouraging, in our offers of help and actions.
The On-line preacher I looked up states that if you are not involved in getting the Gospel to different nations, you are not involved in God’s purpose. On reading this, I excused myself by thinking of the Christian charities I support: the Leprosy Mission, because although leprosy can be cured now, the cure may not get to isolated, rural, poor people; IHC because they and their families get isolated within their own group with little time to share with others; and the Auckland City Mission, because we live in a comfortable and caring community here in Tairua, and they are constantly working with needy people.
We also have to overcome our shyness at mentioning our belief, when chatting with friends and neighbours.
We also have to be open to sharing our belief with those at the end of their lives, or dying, at our local resthome, Matapaia. So often we are tempted to hold back at this time, but it’s an opportunity for very close conversations, and can bring relief for those who need to get something off their chests.
And the On-line preacher recommended that our local church should be as racially diverse as possible. For historical reasons we have few local Maori living here, but the restaurant and local stores have owners, their families and workers who are not NZ Europeans, and I’m always pleased to see us welcoming them here; and plan to share my custom more widely.
I’ve been reading two books this week, which relate to this reflection’s message of ‘loving one another’. One, The Twins of Auschwitz, who, on entering Auschwitz camp, were separated from their sister and parents, who were then killed immediately. The twins were taken to Dr Mengele who studied identical twins, and one wrote their story later, which included the daily little stories of prisoners caring for each other, that kept them alive.
The other book deals with the spontaneous caring for one another shared by communities in war zones.
Love others every moment of the day! A tall task. It’s easy to get irritated by some habits of others, especially when we’re tense or worried about something else; when we’re interrupted while doing something we want to concentrate on (for me it’s while I’m reading a book); or when we’re asked to volunteer and we feel overloaded. But I think that’s something we can prepare for while we’re in our quiet space of self-reflection, prayer/prayer time. Even as I write this I’m making a mental note to do that more often. We need to be alert to others at those times, and we need times when we enjoy ourselves. For me that’s while I’m gardening, or on a walk through a forest, or on the beach: a time when we can restore our souls, even as Jesus did by the shores of Galilee.
So I share my thoughts and love with you, in the name of Jesus.