It often seems to be mention of preaching to the Gentiles that gets Paul’s opponents really worked up. He claims that Jesus is the Messiah – no reaction; that Jesus rose from the dead – no reaction; that he, Paul, saw a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus, was blinded and was later miraculously healed – no reaction; that he had stopped persecuting the Christians and instead joined them – no reaction; that he was now taking this message to Jews and Gentiles alike – uproar, outrage, you must be mad!
What is the parallel for us today?
I can’t think of any groups of people that the church might find it outrageous for us to take the gospel to. We might find it hard to welcome some types of people into our churches because they challenge our church culture, our preconceptions and our ways of doing things, but we wouldn’t rise up in revolt against those who preached the gospel to them.
Maybe that’s a reflection of the fact that we don’t see ourselves as special any more. The Jews understood themselves to be God’s chosen people. They had held a unique and privileged place in his heart and his plan for the world, and still thought they were going to be victorious and rule the whole world some day. The fulfilment of God’s plan, in their eyes, was the overthrow of the Gentiles, presumably involving a total extermination of everyone not born a Jew.
We don’t have that. We understand that is not the new covenant way…
So maybe the question is ‘what is the key concept that those in authority/those who hold the power in our society react against as strongly as Festus and others did against the idea that Gentiles were welcome too?’
When someone freaks out and overreacts like this, it is usually because their worldview, or their sense of themself has been threatened – ‘but if *that* were true, it would mean completely rethinking everything I thought I knew about the world!’
I’ve got some ideas of what those concepts might be, but are there any you have come across? I’d love to hear what you think.