The Upsetting Gospel

Cats can be such jerks. But y’know what’s interesting? The gospel is sort of like that cat. Not that the gospel is a jerk, but that it comes into our world and shakes things up. The claims of the gospel have a tendency to put a hand to everything on the table…and push.

This gets people upset sometimes. It certainly did in the book of Acts, which we’ll be reading this Sunday, in chapter 17:1-15.

We’ll be reading how some folks felt that Paul and company were people who were there to “turn the world upside down”.  I think if Paul were asked, he would say he was on a mission to turn the world right way up – but its all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

The first way the gospel message turns the world upside down in this section is in the world of religion. How do you think the message that Jesus brings upsets the apple-cart in the world of religious assumptions? Has the message of Jesus and His grace upset any of your religious assumptions over the years?

The second way the gospel turns the world upside down has to do with who is ruling our lives. They complained in v7 that Paul presented “another king, Jesus”. There are a lot of things in the broken world that lay claim to our loyalties – how does Jesus interfere with this? Our loyalties can be demonstrated by our time, resources and energy. If you apply that test to your own life, where do your loyalties seem most stringent (don’t answer that out-loud, its just something to mull over)?

When Paul and company get to Berea, the Jewish Bereans are commended for “receiving” or being open minded towards the gospel “eagerly”. But this wasn’t simple gullibility, they were also commended for their discipline in regular examination of the gospel’s claims testing them against Scripture. The story seems to encourage an open mind that employs critical thinking. How open minded would you say you are when it comes to hearing things that are unfamiliar to you? How well would you say you examine and test the things you believe about God?

The gospel stares us down and pushes the glass over the edge. How do we respond?

2 comments

  1. Yep. Nowadays what I see is that people worry way too much about the world, their stuff (or lack there of). and what everybody will that they have no time to employ critical thinking and have their world turned upside down. Great post!

  2. The first thing that that came to mind as I read your post and the passage was that I think we as the modern church have more placed our loyalties with a large complex group of beliefs ABOUT God rather than with God himself. And often when we are challenged or questioned as to why we believe what we do we just respond by saying, “Well I just have faith.” Blind faith to me is most often referring to ignorant and untested faith usually accompanied by a paucity of knowledge of the Bible and an intense fear of perceived heretical ideas. There is typically no room for open mindedness here because this sort of faith behaves like a stack of cards where if one fragile piece is damaged the whole thing comes tumbling down. I have lived in that sort of state a good bit of my life as a believer only reading things that would support my shallow beliefs.

    Its easy to judge the Jews in Thessalonica for not accepting the gospel but I think many times the church today behaves the same way when different points of view are presented before it by scientists, environmentalists or even theologians with a different perspective. We immediately put up our blind faith-shield for fear of having one of our fragile cards knocked out from under us. I remember when I was younger struggling so much with the Creation-Evolution debate thinking that if the literal Genesis creation account were proved wrong then my whole faith would crumble. If the world was not 6000 years old and created in 6 literal days then Jesus was not the Son of God and I was lost. Since then I have learned that I start with Christ and Him crucified and then work outward towards those other peripheral subjects and then instead of a house of cards I have a foundation on which building blocks can placed and sometimes moved or rearranged without damaging the foundation.

    The Jews at Berea probably had the same sort of preconceived ideas about who the Messiah would be and how it would look when he came. I am sure it was just as hard for them to let go of those ideas. The only difference was that they did not put their fingers in their ears and start chanting “la la la la” so they couldn’t hear. They could probably see that Paul and Silas were not crooks or con-artists but that they genuinely cared enough about them to give them this good news. So they listened with open ears and minds and then WENT TO THE SCRIPTURES to see if what they said could hold water. I think we must do the same thing when presented with new ideas that may challenge our preconceived ideas of who God is and how his creation works. If we are truly trusting the Spirit to lead us into truth we should not be afraid to consider points of view that may seem to contradict what we have always held to be true. Lucky for the Jews of Berea, they did not either.

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