Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
We have very little grasp of how imperfect the various characters of history, and even the Bible, were. We idolize and idealize them, when they were just as human as we are. The only human being ever to be without sin was Jesus, so we need to adjust our perspective. We think of the believers in the Early Church as superhuman, since they accomplished so much and endured so much, but I’m sure it didn’t feel that way to them. Life “on the ground” is always messy, but God uses even our weaknesses for His glory. (2 Corinthians 12:9) We have trouble grasping how prejudiced the leadership in particular of the Jerusalem Church really was. Even Peter required the dramatic events of Acts 10 before he could understand that God loves everyone and invites all to be saved, and these people in Jerusalem were no different. We tend to be horrified when we learn of Martin Luther’s antisemitism, but that is only the flip side of these people. God is always bigger than we are, but that is why He can use us in spite of our weaknesses. We tend to disbelieve that God could use us, or others, because of the imperfections that seem so big to us, but that is seeing human imperfections as bigger or stronger than God. God can and does use very imperfect vessels to accomplish His will for His glory, because that’s what He’s got to work with! Paul rightly called us clay pots, filled with the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:7) If the early believers, and early churches, had been perfect, then most of the New Testament would never have been written, because the letters were both to encourage and correct.
This is something I deal with constantly as a pastor. I deal with my own faults and failures, and I deal with those of others. I find that one of my most frequent admonitions is for people to take their eyes off of themselves and fix them on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2) Anyone who will do that will discover that they are doing things impossible for themselves, because God will be manifesting His power through their weakness. We are not limited by our past if we will abide in Christ. That is one of the most magnificent truths of the Gospel. (2 Corinthians 5:17) I’ve got to remember that about myself and about those I deal with. Their past or even current failures don’t dictate their future! God’s plans are indeed to give us hope and a future, (Jeremiah 29:11) and I must never forget that.
Father, thank You for this Word. Thank You for what You have done in the past 24 hours or so in America, blocking those who would exclude You from public life. Donald Trump is manifestly someone with flaws and a less-than-admirable track record in a number of ways, but he is learning humility. That is very hopeful! I pray Your grace and blessings on him and on the nation. I pray the same for this church. Our difficulties seem trivial compared to those of America, but You care about them nonetheless. Help me trust You for the answers even before I see those answers, resting, relaxing, and rejoicing in You, so that Your purposes may be accomplished in and through me, in and through this church, on Your schedule and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!