Search

5 Easter - Acts 11:1-18

Updated: May 20, 2019


In the 1950s, whenever Ricky would find out what Lucy had done, she always had some

'splaining to do.

That is the unenviable position in which Peter finds himself.

The church council found out that he had visited, baptized, and, most

outrageously, eaten at a Gentile's table.

They react like you would upon seeing a picture of your pastor on Facebook worshiping

Satan while wearing a Giants jersey.

They organize an intervention.

They confront Peter about his idolatry, his fundamental betrayal of his identity,

his indefensible blasphemy against God and all that is holy and good.

He has spit in the face of the tradition that gave and preserved his life.

He has betrayed his people and denied everything they held dear.

He has abandoned all Scripture and sense, ignoring the laws of God and the faithful practices of hundreds of years that have kept his people unique, alive, and in good

standing with the one holy God.

He has crossed the uncrossable line.

Peter has some 'splaining to do.


Maybe Lucy also had to do that with her parents once upon a time when she came home

with the Hispanic man she loved.

Many others have had to face their parents with the truth that love has crossed a line,

leaving them with the wrenching choice of disowning the child or erasing the line.

Either way feels deathly.

Why couldn't she just bring home a man?

Why couldn't he find and fall for a nice girl who is like us, whether racially or religiously

or whatever is so important and defining for the family?

Why did this person I love defy the deepest values that make us who we are?

"Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?"


Like so many preachers since, Peter asserts his own faithfulness and then blames God.

Three times I refused the unclean animals; nevertheless, God persisted.

The Holy Spirit tornado tossed me there and then reignited Pentecost in the centurion's

living room.

The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us...

the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning.

And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, 'John baptized with water, but

you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'

If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus

Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?"

That settled it, but not really.

Four chapters later there is a full congregational meeting in Jerusalem addressing

what to do with Gentiles, whether to welcome them and on what terms.

Like so many church fights since, people on both sides of the issue were seeking to be

faithful to God.

The authority of God's word and the sacred identity of God's people were at stake.

How can you be a part of the covenant without the sign of the covenant?

How can uncircumcised Gentiles be among the saved?

How can homosexuals, or women, or divorced men be pastors?

If we say yes to any of these, we are undermining the authority of the Bible, losing our

integrity, jeopardizing our identity, losing ourselves in idolatry.

If we say no to any of these, we are rejecting the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said is the one

unforgivable sin, shunning and defying God, losing ourselves in idolatry.

Either way feels deathly.

Why would God draw a hard line and then cross it?

We expect more consistency from God.

But God is much more than consistent; God is love.


There is an uncrossable line between human and divine; God crossed it.

There is an uncrossable line between death and life; Jesus crossed it.

There is an uncrossable line between Jew and Gentile; the Holy Spirit blows the church

across it.

Every one of these border crossings is punished.

Jesus gets crucified, after saying to Peter and his friends, take up your cross and follow me.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake

will save it.

This is not just true of individuals; it is also true of communities, of nations, of families,

of congregations, of the circumcised, of the baptized.

We can defend our identity or die into God's next idea, which throughout the long

trajectory of Scripture is always crossing a line and widening the circle of grace.

The one seated on the throne is not content just to make some things new.