Depending on the translation, Acts 11:18 is phrased something akin to, “even the Gentiles got the gift.” It’s not exactly the most positive response. It shows us that at the beginning of the church the new reality of a faith that transcended Gentile and Jew still had to be learned.
We are still confronting this today. As of right now, the current cultural memes of concern are women and minorities (specifically, African-Americans). While there are understandable scriptural interpretations in other denominations and traditions not allowing women as leaders in the church, it often has gone hand-in-hand with demeaning women.
Even in the Church of the Nazarene (the denominational perspective from which I attempt to write), there has been the theological acceptance of women as leaders, but the cultural acceptance of such has been a significant issue.
While the Church of the Nazarene has been effective in other nations and cultures, within the confines of the US, the denomination has been predominately white. Both situations leave the Church of the Nazarene in conflict with itself.
The blessing of the cultural memes that have been disrupting our society is that the Church of the Nazarene just might be confronting the incongruities with a plan to fix it. Just as in society-at-large, the fix will be slow and hard.
The denomination is trying to fully live out what it does believe but has been mired in the culture from which it came.
What does this have to do with, “even them”? One of the founding churches of the Church of the Nazarene (it was a number of churches that decided to band together) was in the “skid row” area of Los Angeles. Alcoholism, drunkenness, prostitution all had a prominent and visible place there.
“The least, the last, the lost” were those served by that church, and who the church sought to bring into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
This comes from the older “Wesleyan” tradition, where John Wesley preached outdoors to the miners who were often banned from church as the coal dust would follow them. They were a new kind of “unclean.”
Even they were called into relationship with Jesus Christ. Even to them was the Gospel message sent.
“Even” sounds so belittling, yet we use similar language and constructs when we talk about “Democrats” or “Republicans” or “Trump-ers” or “Never Trump-ers” or immigrants (documented or not) or Muslims or Hindus or…you name them.
Why do we try to limit the Gospel? What is it we hope to achieve?
We often think we don’t limit the gospel, but what about that different person who walks through the door at church (if you’re worshiping there)? How about that person walking down the street talking to themselves?
To even them…
Jesus, thank you for your Gospel. Holy Spirit, guide to those you have for us to share the message of Jesus with. Amen.
1) Can you think of a people group that you are inclined to think of as “even them”? Why do think that is?
2) Why do we often think in terms of us and them?