Saturday, May 13, 2017

Whoever Believes

All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory.   Acts 13:48B-51

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  John 14:11-12

The unbelievers all need some reinforcement.  When they get it (like Thomas and Philip), they move over into the columns of believers.  However, when they do not, they continue to refuse to believe.  How long should we work on these unbelievers?

The notes in Acts remind us that “The refusal to believe frustrates God’s plan for his chosen people; however, no adverse judgment is made here concerning their ultimate destiny. Again, Luke, in the words of Paul, speaks of the priority of Israel in the plan for salvation (see Acts 10:36).”  When they turn their backs (and feet) on the unbelievers, this also reinforces the instructions from Jesus in Luke 9:5-6

And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet* in testimony against them.”  Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere. 

However, Jesus is not so quick to make a complete disassociation from such unbelievers.  Even at the Last Supper discourse in today’s Good News, Philip says to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus could have been upset by this statement in this setting.  After all, Jesus knows that after three years with this bunch, they are about to abandon him.  Jesus could have said: “If you really took the time to know me after all these years of preaching and teaching, then you would have known my Father also.”  Yet, he refrains from responding in a harsh manner.  He does not condemn Philip or even Judas.

Thus, the line between disassociating oneself from the unbelievers and continue to work with them is hard to find in Jesus.  So, if we do the works that he does, we will keep working on the unbelievers.

How can you use Jesus-inspired love to bind together the believer and the unbeliever?

The separation of the believers and unbelievers (Jews and Gentiles) was addressed by the disciples working to build bridges and convert the Gentiles and other unbelievers.   This bridge-building is something that is continued to be needed today.  It reminds me of one of Dr. King’s famous (but less popularly known) speeches:  St. Paul’s Letter to American Christians.

Dr. King opens with these words: “It is miraculous, indeed, that the Apostle Paul should be writing a letter to you and to me nearly 1900 years after his last letter appeared in the New Testament. How this is possible is something of an enigma wrapped in mystery. The important thing, however, is that I can imagine the Apostle Paul writing a letter to American Christians in 1956 A.D. And here is the letter as it stands before me.”

Dr. King continues with these words about the Christian living in an unchristian world: “I am impelled to write you concerning the responsibilities laid upon you to live as Christians in the midst of an unChristian world. That is what I had to do. That is what every Christian has to do. But I understand that there are many Christians in America who give their ultimate allegiance to man-made systems and customs. They are afraid to be different. Their great concern is to be accepted socially. They live by some such principle as this: "everybody is doing it, so it must be alright." For so many of you, Morality is merely group consensus. In your modern sociological lingo, the mores are accepted as the right ways. You have unconsciously come to believe that right is discovered by taking a sort of Gallup poll of the majority opinion. How many are giving their ultimate allegiance to this way?

Finally, as he concludes, Dr. King reminds us that love binds together the believer and the unbeliever.  “So the greatest of all virtues is love. It is here that we find the true meaning of the Christian faith. This is at bottom the meaning of the cross. The great event on Calvary signifies more than a meaningless drama that took place on the stage of history. It is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power drunk generation that love is most durable power in the world, and that it is at bottom the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. Only through achieving this love can you expect to matriculate into the university of eternal life.”

How can you use Jesus-inspired love to bind together the believer and the unbeliever?

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