Acts 22:21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”
It is very telling that the crowd listened to him quietly until he said this, even though he was saying things that clearly stated that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. However, the moment he made this statement they were ready to kill him, as the next verse says. That makes it clear that they weren’t concerned about their temple, their traditions, or even their God so much as they were concerned for their privileges, their unique status as the people of God. As came up in Chapter 11, and again in Chapter 15, this issue nearly split the early Church, even, and it is a major barrier to Jews receiving Christ today. The physical descendants of Abraham are indeed a special group chosen by God, but along the way they lost sight of the purpose of their choosing, which was to proclaim the laws and the love of the Creator to the whole world. I think that was part of why Jonah tried to run away from proclaiming the Word of the Lord in Nineveh, and then was really put out when God didn’t rain judgment down on them after he did preach to them, as the book of Jonah tells so clearly. We have such a small perception of God that we think His love and blessings are limited, and if someone else gets them, our share will be cut back. How foolish! God is infinite, and His love, grace, and mercy are infinite. That’s not Universalism, saying that every human being is saved, period. The conditions of repentance and faith are there for everyone, but one person getting saved doesn’t mean that another person is any less saved. The Jews aren’t alone in that kind of narrow thinking. We need to grasp the picture painted in Revelation: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9) That’s how big God’s love is!
This is very close to home for me, because the Japanese have a sense of ethnic identity that in my opinion is comparable to that of the Jews. They see Shinto and Buddhism as cultural, racial things, and fear that becoming Christian would make them “less Japanese.” I had a man who had been coming to church regularly stop coming abruptly, and when I talked to him about it, he said that if he continued to attend he would become a Christian, and as a Japanese he couldn’t do that. Likewise, my wife had a friend who was familiar with the Bible and had other Christian friends, but when Cathy asked her why she didn’t become a Christian, she said, “Every Christian I talk to says that if I become a Christian I will go to heaven when I die, but my ancestors weren’t Christians, and when I die I’m supposed to go be with them.” That is absolutely tragic, particularly since she dropped dead one day. I can’t change people’s hearts, but God can, so I am to keep praying and keep proclaiming the Gospel, that applies equally to every ethnicity, every individual without any distinctions whatsoever.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the message You’ve given me for this morning on Continuing Prayer. I do pray that I wouldn’t give up, but keep going in Your strength and wisdom, since mine are obviously not up to the task. I pray for an outpouring of revelation and repentance on this nation, that all the lying barriers the devil has set up would be demolished and people open their hearts fully to Your grace and love, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!