Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Diminishing and Enriching

Tonight in Bible study, as we were all-but-snoozing through Acts 11--this because we had just had an incredible Fat Tuesday feast of pancakes, bacon, country ham, sausage, scrambled eggs, ham, biscuits--I noticed something that I had never seen before.

Acts 11 basically reiterates Acts 10. That is, the experience of Peter in Joppa, preaching to Gentiles of Cornelius' house. The results are swift and dramatic: the Holy Spirit falls on them. Peter, amazed that these Gentiles have been granted the Spirit just as he and his fellow Jewish believers have, orders them baptized. What is crucial is that the Jewish Christians who are with Peter and observe the phenomena are "astounded."

Meanwhile, the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem who, as chapter 11 begins, hear about the Gentiles' conversion are outraged and, when Peter returns home, demand an explanation. How dare you, they say, go among the Gentiles? Peter recounts the story of Acts 10, and at the end of his testimony the angry Jewish Christians are mollified, are amazed that God is in fact doing what was promised in Joel (pouring-out the Holy Spirit on all flesh).

Here is what occurred to me. The fact that the disciples in Jerusalem accepted his testimony enriched both Peter and his inquisitors. Had they not, both Peter and the Jerusalem Christians would have been diminished, impoverished, belittled.

Likewise, when we are able to trust and accept the testimony of our brothers and sisters, we are enriched by their experience, broadened in our perspective, ennobled. When we reject the testimony of our spiritual friends,we are correspondingly diminished.

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