Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Shaking-Off the Dust

 Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The following week almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach the word of the Lord.  But when some of the Jews saw the crowds, they were jealous; so they slandered Paul and argued against whatever he said.  Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews.  But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles.  For the Lord gave us this command when he said,
‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
    to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers.  So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.  Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town.  So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium.  And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.   Acts 13:44-52(NLT)

Hearing a “new message” is not an easy thing.  This is especially so when it appears that the new message tramples on the old.  Entrenched feelings and beliefs do not give up their space easily.

In the case of the Gospel, Paul was on shaky grounds with the ruling elders of his faith.  For centuries the Gentiles and Jews were as separate as night and day.  But the Apostle had been called to proclaim the news that the so-called “outsiders” were welcome. 

Paul and Barnabas tried again and again to go to the synagogues with the Gospel, but were rejected at every turn.  Finally they gave up and shook the dust off their sandals, telling the elders their rejection of the message of Christ would be their undoing.  So Paul turned to the Gentiles.

Throughout the centuries any new message is generally met with opposition, and even angry backlash.  Some of the clash between old and new is silly, and merely boils-down to a cultural spat, we like this, versus we want that!  The key of this is found in the verbs; when you like something, you want it, and you don’t very much appreciate anyone else meddling with it. 

This is the same problem Adam and Eve had in the Garden – their “wanter” got them in deep trouble, as it has for every one of their family members down through the centuries.

But sometimes the new is right, and rejecting it is wrong.  In the case of the elders who opposed Paul, holding on to the old way was the latter, and they missed welcoming the Son of God.

Freshly returned from yet another deeply-divided annual conference of the United Methodist Church, I am nagged by the question which has plagued this denomination for forty years:  are the progressives right – that homosexuality isn’t a sin?  Or are the conservatives right – making the prevailing wind of change in American culture (both secular and church) a stench in God’s nostrils?

For You Today

It is no secret that there is little room to sit on the fence in this issue; tempers flare the moment the bell rings for the next round. 

When all is said and done, I pray the side you have chosen will not be where the dust from God’s sandals will fall on you.

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!

[1] Title Image: By Johnathon (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

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