Who Are My Gentiles? (Part 2 of 2)

The people in Jerusalem listening that day to Paul connected with him until he told them about the commission he had received from Jesus: to go to the Gentiles and share the Good News of Christ’s love with them.  This is when they went from listening intently to wanting him dead.

And that is when the thought hit me, “Who are my Gentiles?”  Who are the people groups (that when someone tells me God is sending them to this group to share the Good News) that cause me to want to walk away from the one being sent?  I want to get rid of the person who wants to go.  Maybe I don’t call for their death, but I wish that somehow they would be stopped from going.IMG_0674

As we have traveled around and shared about the mission that Christ has called us to we have found a great reception from the people listening.  Most are enthusiastic and supportive as they hear about our being called to plant churches among the “University District Villages” of America.  They are excited and many have become a part of our Support Team helping us to carry out the mission.

But there are others in the crowd whose tone of voice and facial expressions tell us a different story.  There is no joy in their voice.  There are no smiles.  Foreheads strained and wrinkled, voices tight and guarded; they struggle with the thought of who lives in these villages.  Their minds race with images of people that they are not sure they want to see in heaven one day.  And while they are careful to not call for our demise, they are quick to exit the conversation and get away from us.

Going through this experience in the last several months caused me to pause in reading the scriptures … a text I had read many times before became real in such a different way.  Passing over it I never saw the personal connection it held or understood the reason it was really there.  It prodded me as I couldn’t get past it, a Holy Spirit pause that forced me to look inside my soul and see who the “Gentiles” might be in my life.

Who are the people (when I see them in public) I shy away from and even feel animosity for?  Who are the ones I find myself thinking, “they got what they deserved” when I hear of a tragedy that came their way?  What group of people do I secretly hope are unable to escape the hell I think they deserve?

It could be the people of Islam who stir such a thought.  Maybe it’s the educated, or for that matter, the uneducated. What about gays? Homophobes? Religious or non-religious? Conservatives or liberals? Abusive people? Christians, or at the least, certain types of Christians? Wealthy? Poor?  It could be white, black, red, yellow, or brown people.  On and on goes the list of those we secretly don’t want to hear the gospel.

IMG_0147And then I am reminded of some important truths of God.  I am reminded that God loves the world and gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved.  My mind races to the text where it says we all have sinned and come short of God’s glory.  I am flooded, like the room with the morning sun, with the purpose Jesus gave us all: to make disciples of all people, no exclusions.

Then I find myself in a place where I either have to resist God or fall on my knees in repentance before Him.  The cool morning breeze of the Holy Spirit flows through my soul and leads me in a search of my heart to see who my “Gentiles” might be.  Today, might I suggest, that you join me and begin to search your heart for the “Gentiles” of your life.  And when God reveals them to you, pause, repent, and then ask Christ to give you love for them.  Watch as His light floods your soul and the breeze of His Spirit flows through you.  You will be amazed at the change in you and just what He might call you to do next!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

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Who Are My Gentiles? (Part 1 of 2)

IMG_1641A cool Sunday morning breeze flows through the screen door, with beautiful sunshine flooding the room, creating a great atmosphere for an interesting question to come to my mind as I read from Acts 22.  Here it is, “Who are my Gentiles?”  Funny how it doesn’t seem to have the punch it did in prayer, but read on and I think you will understand just how big a deal it is.  Let me take a moment to set the stage with a little background info.

The Apostle Paul had gone to Jerusalem to bring a report on his mission trips to the elders of the Church.  After receiving his report, the Elders informed him of accusations around the city that Paul was consorting with Gentiles and telling Jews, who lived around them, they didn’t need to follow the laws of Moses.  Of course, the Holy Spirit had told him numerous times that trouble awaited him at his return to Jerusalem.  The Elders encouraged him to go to the temple and join others in a purification rite, hoping this would calm the accusers down.

It didn’t work.  Having been arrested while going through the Jewish purification rite Paul is accused of bringing Gentiles with him to the temple.  They drag him and the men with him out of this holy space and begin to beat them.  Read Acts 21 for all the details.

An amazing story unfolds in Acts 22 as Paul tells the people of how he was a Jew that stood out among other Jews.  He spoke about how aggressive he was in his faith, even to the point of pursuing, imprisoning, and killing people who dared to move from the roots of Jewish faith.  Paul told them how he was the one who held the cloaks and gave his approval for the stoning of a man called Stephen, a man known to many as part of a movement called The Way.  The people were listening and tracking with him as the tale unfolded.

Then Paul told them about how on the way to Damascus to arrest more people of The Way he experienced the most unusual thing.  He described how Jesus appeared to him and gave him instructions.  Paul told them about how he was blinded by a bright light, a light those traveling with him saw as well.  And he told the people about how he had come to believe in Jesus.  All through which the people listened intently as he spoke without interruption.

They listened until he told them about the commission he had received from Jesus.  This is where it gets really interesting.  Paul told the people about his encounter while praying in the temple, how he fell into a trance and God spoke to him during this time.  God said, “Go away from here! I’m sending you far away – to the Gentiles!”  It was at this point the people listening that day began to shout and call out for his death.  This is when they stopped listening that day.  When Paul began to talk about the commission from Jesus to go and teach the Gentiles, the Jews listening that day only wanted one thing; they wanted him dead.

(Tomorrow we will post the impact of this story as I read it from Acts)