For the past several years, I have been incredibly flummoxed as to how those who claim to believe in Jesus be racists, hate the poor and despise the immigrants. Claims of justifications of their social and religious views in light of the Jesus of the Bible are lost on me. I cannot understand how they can hate in the name of Jesus.
It appears that Christianity in the U.S. is founded on something other than the Bible. The core problem of U.S. Christianity today is that its authority is not God of the Bible, nor Jesus the Messiah, but its foundation is the racist ideology the U.S. created. So the question is, “Can U.S. Christianity be redeemed?” For the U.S. Christian church to be saved, there has to be biblical redemption exemplified by the early Church.
The Early Church was founded by a group of Jews who broke away from their historical religious institution and that institution’s social and religious views of the time. It appears that for three years, they followed a new prophet in hopes of redeeming Judaism, but following the crucifixion, they were disillusioned, discouraged, and disempowered. However, Pentecost changes everything. The Spirit of God comes upon this renegade bunch, and those who once were scared and were in hiding are now emboldened, and they face the crowd without fear.
The arrival of change is contained in Peter’s message at Pentecost when he proclaimed that the Spirit of God had been poured out on “all flesh” and “everyone” who calls on “God” (Yahweh) will be saved. We also find the disciples speaking to those whom they had formerly hated (Samaritans), aliens (Ethiopian), and those whom they had always believed were outside of God’s love (Gentiles).
The question then naturally becomes, “What changed?” What happened on Pentecost that the former Jews who believed that only Jews were the only children of God all of a sudden believe that everyone is accepted by God? Whatever they were doing was so powerful that new people were joining them every day. Their acts of gentleness and generosity are founded in the phrase, “with glad hearts.”
It was the Spirit of God that transformed the hearts of the people, which led to the change in their attitudes, which led to their changed behaviors. The early believers demonstrated such a different kind of life, and people sought them out. Just as Jesus had thousands of people follow him around, the disciples also had people come to be with them. There is something about people who follow Jesus of the Bible that is so attractive to others that people will go and check it out for themselves. We live in an era that social scientists label as post-modern, post-Christian, and post-religious millennium, and they claim that the Church is dead. However, no one says that the teachings of Jesus are dead.
Let us be the people who are transformed by the Spirit of God, so others will know that Jesus is alive in us. It seems that the truth of redemption in Jesus starts with having glad hearts. So may God’s Spirit transform us and give us glad hearts.