God continues to surprise us. In this story Peter faces several surprises. One comes in the acceptance of unacceptable people in the “in” group. A Jewish sect that is in the process of becoming Christian because its members follow Christ comes to realize that God’s love and grace go out to others, far beyond their familiar boundaries.
Then when those “others” believe in God, have a vision, and reach out to Peter, the Holy Spirit pays a visit and God grants “repentance that leads to life.” As Peter notes, “Who was I to hinder God?” The Spirit works freely, unhindered by anyone. Not only must Peter accept this, but he then has to convince the rest of the disciples of this truth. He carefully crafts a full explanation of how the conversion took place. They receive his report in silence but then begin to praise God for the expansion of their ministry.
At this time I am concerned about “excluders”—people and groups that insist on exclusion, on limiting membership, on employing strict rules about right and wrong. The general stance of an excluder is this: “If you are not with me, you are against me,” which attempts to give legitimacy to a personal stance.
When certain groups of people are excluded in any situation, I suspect that the excluders may be working against the Holy Spirit. But “who [are we] to hinder God?” Who are we to say that God forbids anyone from full participation or inclusion? The call to discipleship is a mandate for all who believe, and God’s Spirit moves in awesome ways.
Be ready to embrace the life-changing surprises that God has in store for you.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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