When you turn on the television, open a newspaper or surf any news provider’s website these days, it will not be long before you come face to face with the fact that our society is currently wrestling with a wide range of really challenging issues.
Racial and ethnic tensions abound across our nation. Bitterness, animosity and social unrest hit feverish levels on a seemingly cyclical rhythm with each passing month. Economic disparity, discrimination and disenfranchisement effect so many. Religious and political leaders struggle to reconcile the wide range of emotions and perspectives on these divisive and challenging issues that are ravaging our nation.
So many of us are asking tough questions. What can I do about all this? How exactly should followers of Jesus respond?
While each story we read about or experience seems to bring a new level of tension, tragedy and sadness, these sort of challenges are not new. In fact, the very social issues we wrestle with today, humanity has been dealing with for centuries. Humans it seems are prone to discriminate, be insensitive and create tension.
In Acts chapter 10 we discover that the very first Christians had to tackle these kinds of issues. Peter had grown up in a traditional Jewish home and been taught to follow the law. He met Jesus and followed him for 3 years. Like many of those who first accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, Peter wrestled with generational and religious teachings that shaped and molded his psyche. He believed that non-Jewish people were unclean and therefore not fit to be included in the salvation Jesus had provided on the cross.
The author of Acts records how God gently provided Peter with a vision for the scope and inclusivity of the gospel message of Jesus. We read that initially Peter was “inwardly perplexed” (Acts 10:17) as he was being asked in the vision to accept unclean food, something that was in stark opposition to his cultural norms. And yet, as Peter humbly listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, it became clear that God was helping him understand that the gospel was intended for all humanity. As a follower of Jesus, Peter realized his responsibility was to share the gospel with everyone, without discrimination. With this new found understanding of the inclusive intention of the gospel, Peter responded “without hesitation” (vs. 20).
As we face the various social challenges in our world, we would do well to follow Peter’s humble example. It is okay to initially be “inwardly perplexed” as Peter was. And yet, rather then lean on cultural comforts and traditional norms, we should seek God’s will in terms of our response. When challenging social issues arise in our conversations, may we choose to ask for and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and like Peter, respond “without hesitation.”
I would love to hear your thoughts… leave a comment below!