CHRIST-ian: Say It With a Slur!
“And when he came, he saw the grace of God…”
Responding to rumors that there was a growing number of “Jesus followers” in the Gentile city of Antioch, the leadership in Jerusalem determined to send a trusted leader to check things out. After nearly two weeks travel, Barnabas arrived in what would be the “New York City gone Las Vegas” of his time. Antioch was the 3rd largest city of the Roman Empire and renown for its culture, its international cosmopolitan flavor, and its love of sports and the arts. It was also a melting pot of the religions of the world. One could find a temple/shrine to virtually every known god of virtually any known heritage. But ranking as the number one religious attraction was the temple just five miles outside the city limits. There the goddess Daphne was celebrated with all its decadent practices.
But when our man, Barnabas arrives, he is not looking for temples, shrines, sports tickets, architectural tours, or art museums. And he was certainly not going to make the journey outside the city to the shameful temple. What he was seeking was “evidence” of the saving work of the Holy Spirit. If in fact there WERE true followers of Jesus, he was intent upon identifying them and encouraging them.
“Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all…” Acts 11:23
In that city, the followers of the gods of the Romans, Greeks, Semitics, Arabians, and Persians could be identified by their shines and ritualists. But how would he recognize a people who had no temple, shrine, or house of worship? He would look for the mark of Jesus. He knew that he had found them when, “He witnessed the grace of God…”
But what did he SEE?
- Peace of mind—a calm assurance that “all was well”
- Joy of full forgiveness—the delight of knowing that sins had been washed away
- Unity in community—men and women living their lives for others and no longer consumed with self
- Service in fellowship—the engagement of their unique spiritual gifting in order to help one another continue to grow up spiritually
- Passion for Jesus—the truth was just too valuable to hide and keep but they spontaneously shared their hope with the hopeless
- Generosity with their treasures—their open-hearted attitudes resulted in open-handed actions as they gave to meet the tangible needs of others
When others look at us, what will they see? The mark that they will see is that we belong to the party of Christ. That is the ultimate evidence of the “grace of God.”
“And in Antioch, the disciples were first called ‘CHRIST-ians’” Acts 11:21,26 In them they saw the “grace of God.”
See you Sunday, Church!