Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. (Galatians 1:10)
Relate: In the first sermon preached by anybody in the very first church in history, harsh words were spoken. Very harsh words. On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood in front of a crowd of Jews in Jerusalem. He said, “God publicly endorsed Jesus. You knew this, you saw the miracles and yet you killed Him. With the help of the lawless gentiles, you nailed Him to that cross.” Peter accused his listeners of knowingly rebelling against God and, even worse in their eyes, in consorting with their most hated enemy to do so. Peter pulled no punches.
In the very next chapter, Peter is doing it again: “You rejected and handed over Jesus to Pilate. In fact, Pilate wanted to let Him go but you insisted this holy, righteous man be killed and demanded Pilate release a murderer instead. You killed the author of life.”
Moving one more chapter into the book of Acts we see more of the same. Before the Temple elders Peter says, “You killed Jesus but God raised Him from the dead.” In case the religious leaders didn’t get the fact that Peter is declaring them enemies of God, he says it again later on, “We aren’t going to obey you. We are going to obey God.” To a group that claimed to represent and speak for God, nothing could be more offensive.
React: Today there is a lot we could learn from the early church. In order to counter the often very just and true accusation that we are unloving and intolerant, we have shied away from being honest. Some of us, acknowledging that old adage, “truth hurts” turn and use truth like a sledgehammer beating and bruising the ones God loves. The rest of us, shying away from the abuse of truth by those claiming to be Christians, try to avoid speaking truth altogether.
We can learn from Peter. He spoke a hard truth, but he also spoke the whole truth. “You have done this evil, but God turned it to good. You killed Jesus but He can now redeem You. This promise is for you, your kids, and… everyone.” This promise is for confederate flag-waving, white hooded conservatives, and rainbow flag-waving flamboyant liberals. This promise is for crooked cops and rioting thugs. This promise is for German NAZI’s and Soviet Commies. This promise is for Palestinian Muslims and Orthodox Jews. This promise is for you and it’s for me. We are all filthy, evil sinners. We are also all loved and His grace is greater than all of our sin.
Forgive me for the times I have tried to hide my sin by highlighting the sin of others. Forgive me for the times I have tried to hide my own brokenness by condemning it in others. Forgive me also for the times I have tried to embrace acceptance by soft pedaling on hard truths. Forgive me for the times I have avoided speaking reality so that I might not be associated with those who revel in abusing the truth in their harshness. It is a hard balance to keep. Help me to walk it as you did.