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Posts Tagged ‘Cornelius’

It’s one of my struggles in the church as I go through this period of change in viewpoint. I’m in process. So I edit what I say around certain people who I assume will be offended. I don’t want a confrontation, or the backing away, or the widened eyes. And yet, how else does the “conversation” begin?

Galatians 2:12
Before certain men came from James, he [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

Actually, the key problem may be my assumptions about the “other.” Isn’t it these presumptions that keep me quiet? How can I really know what others think unless we talk about it.

But then, I hear my inner voice remind me that I’m not quite sure where I’m going with all this new information about Emergents and Missional Churches and Hipster Christianity. There is so much excitement in these frameworks as believers become more inclusive, more committed to the needs of others, more relational. A part of me enjoys confronting the “sacred cows” of the institutional church but I also don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Peter got a taste of the “new way” when Cornelius [Acts 10] called Peter to his house just after the Lord had given Peter those three visions of the sheet coming down from heaven filled with foods that Jewish law had always prevented him from eating. He was shocked. And yet, when Cornelius’s men appeared, he understood the vision and he went to the house, entered and even ate there. But that was before the gentile explosion. It was one thing to “let in” a few gentiles here and there but Paul was starting to bring them in my hundred and thousands. Maybe it was all happening too fast. I don’t really know.

Perhaps we all suffer from these fears now. The new stuff sounds good, but what about the traditions and the old ways? Haven’t those ways always worked before? Hasn’t the church always survived?

I’m not so sure. Has the church survived or has it merely continued to splinter off into a variety of cells (denominations) because of disagreements and revelations. The proliferation of denominations got so bad at one point that people thought they could solve the problem by having “non-denominational” churches. But soon, even those groups splintered and they created churches by affiliation (Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, Community Churches) and then a single church would develop “campuses” with closed circuit video of the pastor. Big was better, Megabig was best.

But that trend is now being confronted with smaller is better and may tiny (like house churches) is best.

Who knows? What is the church? What is the Body of Christ?

There cannot be only one affiliation or denomination or cell group that has the inside track of what it means to be the Body of Christ. There is but one litmus test: Christ crucified and risen, accepted by the believer as the propitiation of sin. The rest is interpretation.

I think it’s time for me to stop worrying about what people will think and just talk to them. The conversation must trust that Christ is the glue that holds us all together. The conversation opens the doors to our hearts and minds. It doesn’t have to be about “changing” someone’s mind, just connecting.

I have written before about the “sacred other;” if we entered every conversation with this in mind, our differences of opinion would not separate us. We would be free to enjoy the many colors of Christ.

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Acts 10:17, 20
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate….”So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I [God] have sent them.”

The servants of the centurion, Cornelius, were the last people that Peter would expect to see at the door of the house where he was staying in Joppa. He hadn’t even processed the meaning of the vision he had with the great sheet coming down out of heaven filled with “unclean” foods for a Jew. In the vision, he heard plainly from the Holy Spirit, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” [vs 15] And not just once did he see and hear, but three times. And right on the heels of the vision, the gentiles come a-calling.

So, who is at my door? Who is the most unexpected guest? Certainly, if a Muslim terrorist came to my door and asked to hear about Jesus, I would be shocked. How could this be? Or what about a primitive from some tribe in a third world country or a homeless man or woman? A gay man or woman? A transvestite? How did they even know to come to me? How did they even hear about Jesus at all? And who am I to do anything else but invite them in?

God touches who God touches and it may surprise us along the way. I don’t think we should assume anything. It is God who changes a heart and it is only after the heart becomes soft that a person’s choices can change.

I think we need to stop creating cookie-cutter Christians and stop looking through the peephole before we open the door. Our job is simple: open the door and tell our story.

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