‘Stand Up!’ Meditations No.26: A Hindrance?
Acts 11:17 “who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
There is a terrible picture at the end of Acts 7 that perhaps we often lose sight of. Stephen has just been speaking before the Sanhedrin about how the Jews had throughout their history fallen short in their belief – right up to that present moment. When he sees heaven open they rush at him to stone him and there is this simple verse: “the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:58) In the next chapter we read of this young zealot, “Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3) A chapter later this young man is confronted on the road to Damascus by the risen Christ from heaven. Later he was to testify, “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 26:9) A zealous young Pharisee, standing in God’s way then steam-rollered!
But our starter verse is Peter testifying to how, as a good Jew, he wouldn’t mix with Gentiles until God leant on him to show him that He accepted them. Another zealous young man standing in God’s way.
So it’s more about attitudes towards God. We’ve seen His design, His greatness and now His will and purposes. So now this is Peter, back in Jerusalem, reporting to his peers and telling why he had gone to Gentiles. Gentiles!!! Them! Not us, not the chosen ones!!! But actually yes, God’s heart has always been for the whole world and He’s always on the move to break down barriers and reach someone new – if only we have eyes to see it, because we may not recognise Him in the affairs of the world around us. Open my eyes, Lord, to see you at work, in the people around me and in the bigger world.
I wonder in what subtle ways you and I can find ourselves standing in God’s way, holding on to attitudes or perceptions that hinder God moving in and through us to others. It’s never that God doesn’t want to move on, it’s always because we have reservations, doubts, questions, misgivings, that stop us moving into what God wants for us.
Paul was being utterly zealous but failed to realise that the time God had been speaking about for centuries had come, the Messiah had arrived and died on a cross as the Lamb of God who had come to redeem the world as both a servant and a king. Paul had no doubt read the prophecies but never realised they had just recently been fulfilled, and so he was still living in his ‘yesterday’. Easy to do, as Peter also showed. Do we hold attitudes towards others – inside and outside family, church, work, school, college etc. – that limit the Lord using us. We do it when we fail to see the bigness of God’s love for all others and fail to catch His heart for them. Let’s try and avoid that.