It's been some time since I last posted, sorry about that. In any case, today I started the book of Acts after spending the last few months in the gospels. What a ride to say the least. What God has shown me about Himself, myself and those in my life has been amazing. It is fitting then that when finishing the gospels you transition directly into the book of Acts, which shows us what we should do we what the gospels has given us....spread the word.
Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.
This is as far as I got in my reading, however, this verse did make me wonder how far it is I have gotten in my ministry. Jesus made this statement on the Mount of Olives, (also where He made his statements regarding the end times in Matt 24-25). The Mount of Olives is located in Jerusalem, which is part of Judea. Jerusalem is about 35 miles south of Samaria and can be reached on a map by drawing a straight line. So it isn't very far. Additionally, and my favorite part of this whole verse, Jesus also instructed them to reach the end of the earth, or as the NASB puts it the "remotest parts of the earth."
What I found so interesting about the places Jesus names is that they coincide with places in our own lives. Typically when we read passages, we first look at context, then we breakdown audience and intention, then we dive deeper and do with the bible what James tells us to do with it, we apply it or become "doers of the word"(Js 1:22). Jerusalem to the disciples was where it had all started for them. This is where Christ ascended into heaven, it marked the beginning of the church age, the church that Jesus Himself had promised to build back in Matthew 16:18. It was upon this rock or this "petra" that Christ would build His church. It wasn't referring to Peter which in the greek is "Petros" or little rock, it was referring to his confession or to the truth behind his confession, the "petra" or bedrock of his confession. And it was upon this foundation that the disciples worked in the name of His church.
The word church throughout the entire new testament is the greek word "ekklesia" which means "a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly." It is never a reference to a building. We are citizens of Christ, called to gather together in all places, preaching the gospel: Christ crucified. Interestingly enough, Jesus begins with Jerusalem, which for me is like home. Our first place is home. Like 1 Tim 3:5 reminds us, if a man doesn't have rule over his own house, how can you expect him to have it over the church of God? So automatically, it is to those closest to us that we ought to preach the gospel.
The next place is an interesting one, Samaria. I say it is interesting because while it is only 35 miles from Jerusalem, there is something else that separates it that is more than just distance. In those days, the jews and samarians had a strained relationship (Luke 9:52-54, Luke 10:25-37, Luke 17:11-19, John 8:48). However, we know that throughout Jesus' ministry, He rebuked His disciples for their hostility to the Samaritans (Luke 9:55-56), healed a Samaritan leper (Luke 17:16), honored a Samaritan for his neighborliness (Luke 10:30-37), praised a Samaritan for his gratitude (Luke 17:11-18), asked a drink of a Samaritan woman (John 4:7), and preached to the Samaritans (John 4:40-42).
How that translates toward us? We aren't just called to love those closest to us, but also to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us. We are called to love without partiality (James 2:1-5). Those people in your life who aren't so far away from you, however, are separated not just by distance, but by attitude and preference, Christ calls us to preach the gospel to them as well. This might mean you putting your pride on the shelf and dealing with comments, attitudes, opinions and all the like, however, unless you can say to yourself, that person is saved, then you must consider them headed to hell and as a result called to in some way reach out to them. Don't pull the "well I don't like them so therefore I don't want to deal with them for eternity," remember, "judge not, lest you be judged" which is to say, don't ever condemn someone to hell simply on appearance or preference, because if that were the case, then the same should have been done to you.
Lastly, we are called to go to the remotest parts of the earth. For me, these places are those that are well outside our comfort zones. Many times people equate this verse to mean the mission field in some foreign land, however, these days in the country we live in, that could mean the classroom, the office, or that homeless man on the corner. We need to begin praying that God show us what those places are to us. Cliche as it may sound, while you might think it impossible to reach that person or that place, remember that you can "do all things through Christ who strengthens you."
When Jesus was on the earth, His ministry was focused on the blind, the lame, the deaf, the widowed, the sick, the dead and the tax collectors just to name a few. Interesting thing about all of these groups was their place in society: rock bottom. All of them were viewed as the useless or the hated of society and as result were given little attention, Jesus however, was all about them and in the same way, we should be too. Let's start looking for these people in our lives, those people who seem so far away and yet, can be brought so near with just the words of the gospel.
All of this too say something God has been speaking to me for a few weeks now, start seeing people as who they really are: someone created in the image of God. Start looking to those remote parts of your life, start stepping out of your comfort zone, start loving those unlovable people in your life, start witnessing to those you call your own. You'll soon find the more you do it, the smaller the "distance" between you and these places. What once felt like a remote almost impossible place to reach, will soon be your Jerusalem.
It is a challenge; Acts 1:8 says to us that if we truly understood the gospel and all it means to mankind, we should then love our family by telling them and living it, love our enemies and present it to them through deed or word, love those unlovable people that rub us the wrong way by telling them as well, and lastly reach out to those people who seem unreachable or not worth it.
Start seeing people for who they are, and love them, the same way you love yourself....more on that later...