Sometimes I believe that the reason I am in politics is more to observe people than to serve them, though the latter is my calling. The former, politics, is certainly a great tool for schooling me in the relevance of scriptures. Each day as I read the Word, contemporary parallels become more obvious. If spiritual progress has occurred over the centuries it sure is subtle.
Today I was reading about Peter, his imprisonment by Herod just after James the brother of John (Acts 12) had been beheaded. You may know the story, in that while he was chained in prison, his friends, those in the Way (no pun intended) were praying for him.
Note the response to the young girl Rhonda, who ran inside to report Peter’s “unexpected” arrival at their place of prayer, “You must be out of your mind, it must be his angel.” (NIV). What they were praying for and what they could believe for were way distant from each other. Some had already assumed Peter’s similar demise to that of James, though masking their dark gut feeling as they offered corporate prayers for Peter; much like we often do, as we publically pray “in faith believing.” Possibly hoping more that our own faith will be healed, than grasping that what we have need of has already been provided in Christ’s suffering.
My point is little has changed in the way we react today as church folk.
God is surely doing a new thing among all His people, yet like those acclimated to the Temples of that day, we work hard to sustain our own traditions and think less outside the box of our deeply held beliefs, than does the God who instructs those beliefs. We ever resist those unlike us, whom God loves and reaches toward (“but God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28b). In that day it was the Gentiles, in our day, well, you may insert here the faces of those people groups that come to your mind.
Like the earlier Peter, we boast to God of how we would never be so unclean as to associate with sinners or even eat unclean things, having forgotten that all have sinned and were it not for the grace of God, we too would be in the numbers of those for whom we carry subtle hatred and bigotry. Jesus died for all sinners! Our task is not to identify sin (I recall Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery) but to love people.
When election season rolls around, our biases are only enflamed and more open, now justified in some way by our party affiliation. The challenge for a spiritual leader during this season is to not be distracted from truth by sudden and unnatural displays of religion.
My conclusion, people are people and seldom change unless God intervenes and mercy prevails, even among those who prey (sic), blinded by silent but deeply held assumptions about God, just as was this post Pentecost Peter prior to his visit by Cornelius.