Date: Wednesday, August 14
Scripture: Acts 21:17-36
Verse: They seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (Acts 21:27b-28)
In the words of Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjá vu all over again.” Paul had a very similar conversation with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem back in chapter 15. There is was decided that rather than require Gentile Christians to be circumcised, they would have them obey just four rules: Don’t eat food offered to idols, don’t drink blood or eat meat of animals that have been choked, and don’t commit sexual sin. A letter was written to the Gentile churches, and the issue apparently put to rest.
Ah, but we are dealing with people here, and the issue is not dead. Before Paul can finish the purification rite, showing his adherence to the Law, the issue returns with more force. The rational discussion of chapter 15 has been replaced with rumor, innuendo, and a bit of mob mentality (see vs 34) here in chapter 21. Paul is now being accused of defiling the Temple by bringing non-Jewish people in.
Sometimes I’m concerned the church in the 21st century sends a similar message. In his book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations Bishop Schnase says it this way, “Too many churches want more young people as long as they act like old people, more newcomers as long as they act like old-timers, more children as long as they are as quiet as adults, more tunic families as long as they act like the majority in the congregation.”
As Paul shares the Gospel with “different” people, he is stirring things up within the establishment. The “insiders” seem to have forgotten they too are sinners in need of purification; that they have not earned the right to be God’s people, but have been extended that privilege through the grace of God. We too need to remember we are recipients of the love and forgiveness of God. We too have a history of a life without God as part of it. We too have made our mistakes and been forgiven. As God’s agents in the world, we ought not be setting up velvet ropes to keep out the riffraff. When we do, we might just find we shouldn’t be allowed entrance either.
Prayer: Remind me, O God, of the grace and love I have received from you; and give me the courage to extend it to others. Amen.
Action: Reflect on cultural differences you have experienced over the years. How were they barriers to communication? Have they changed for the better, for the worse, or stayed the same?
Respond: When have you experienced “déjá vu all over again”? Answer by clicking “Leave a Comment” below. If you are receiving this via email, click the title at the top of the email to take you to the devotion webpage where you can leave a comment.