Acts 11:1-18 (ESV)
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
This radical idea that salvation isn’t just for the Jews keeps spreading, but now runs up against what has to be the most difficult group in all Christendom – the circumcision party. Not surprisingly, they criticized him [Peter], saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
What happens next qualifies as a genuine miracle. Peter recounts the event of the last few days and they put up not a single argument or objection. When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
They instantly change their minds. That never happens. People who see things from a certain point of view are always slow to abandon that point of view.
This isn’t just sinful closed-mindedness; changing your mind is hard work – especially when it’s a big change. Our brains process everything through the “lens” of our past experiences. We perceive things in terms of patterns that we recognize. That’s why optical illusions work – we see familiar patterns instead of what’s really there. This is important, but complicated. I’ll explain more in the next lesson.
Missionaries deal with this at an advanced level. Conversion is always a miracle; people’s minds are naturally not open. So, what do you say to someone who isn’t going to understand unless a miracle occurs?
That’s the question missionaries face every day. Pray for them regularly.
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