“And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26. Pastor Matt Mcgue’s blog, A Reconciled Church did a great job describing what happened as a result of the gospel being preached in Antioch.
How did this happen? This wasn’t Jerusalem, the epicenter of the new Jesus movement. Antioch was not even close to the center of the birth of the church, being roughly 300 miles away. It was located in what is today modern day Syria.
But yet, in Antioch Luke decides to drop this nugget in his letter, “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”. The word Christian had never been used before until this point. Can you imagine what it looked like to an unbelieving world to see what was happening in Antioch? Imagine witnessing eighteen different cultures and ethnicities in a packed city like Antioch, where the dense population was around 117 people per acre, coming together under the name of Jesus the Christ.
“I can’t BREATHE.” Oxygen. Breathe. Life Inhale. Exhale.
In the beginning, God created humankind in his image, fashioning them in His likeness. Male and female He created them. When He was done sculpting the man, He blew the breath of life into his nostrils, causing him to live. Breathing is indispensable to life. It’s a gift from God. Every moment that we are alive, breathing, is rife with possibilities for flourishing, joy, and impact. Every moment is an opportunity for us to give the Creator glory through His creation. This glory, this opportunity for joy, flourishing and impact was heinously stolen from our dear brother, George Floyd. What’s worse, is that we ALL bore witness to this senseless tragedy. We couldn’t turn away. Racism became real for some and reaffirmed its presence for others. It became undeniable.
The New Testament Church was the Prototype for how God Designed the Church to be.
I love my 4 wheel drive Toyota FJ Cruiser, with it’s retro look and off road performance, even though it’s 14 years old. Toyota never intended to make them. The designer created a prototype for display purposes in 2003 at the Detroit Auto Show as a creative concept that was unlike anything Toyota had ever done. It got such rave reviews, the company rushed to get them into production for a short eight year run. The finished product looked very similar to the original crowd pleasing prototype, as it should. A prototype sets the standard and expectation.
In March 2020, the church I work for went entirely virtual, the international women’s organization I serve with cancelled the workshops I was preparing to lead in the Middle East, my husband’s coffee shop had to stop serving customers indoors and experienced significant financial loss. My four kids abruptly stopped going to school and started learning online, completely isolated from their schools and communities. Add to these personal struggles the national pain of racial injustice and inequitable suffering in certain communities because of the pandemic, and many days, it all felt like too much to bear. I found myself losing hope. How can I trust God when things look like they do right now? Is He actually trustworthy when it seems like what is happening now is the opposite of what He promised?
Reconciliation across color, class, and culture has always been God’s idea. It started in the Garden in Genesis 1 and 2 between Adam and Eve, and will end in the city coming down from heaven to earth in Revelation 21 and will be a gathering of his people in Revelation 7, “from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”.
I’ll never forget the moment when I sensed the Holy Spirit inviting me into this story. I was sitting in our all white mega-church in Grand Rapids, MI. in 2006 and Pastor Marvin Williams was speaking from Isaiah 58 about God’s heart to loosen the chains of injustice. Pastor Marvin, who is African-American, had just shared about his experience of sitting at a restaurant eating breakfast and an older white man walked past him and said, “What are you doing here, boy?” Boy is a racial slur dating back to the Jim Crow days.
Recently, I saw a meme traveling on Facebook that was a little spicy. It said something like, “When I think of a biblical woman, I think of someone who could put a tent peg through someone’s head if needed.” That is one way to think about a biblical woman – albeit not the way I have typically heard one described. I thought about how the narratives we read, hear and see influence who we think we should be. Groups create and reinforce narratives that perpetuate shame, pride, a sense of worth, and a whole lot more.