I’ve been in the middle of the Christian world for 37 years now and dang if I’m not still finding things which totally shift my perspective.
Last week I wrote about six ideas I’ve overcomplicated; from Peter, in the second chapter of Acts. Peter, just a fisherman, knew who Jesus was, knew what happened to Jesus, and knew God raised Jesus from the dead.
Then in an act of courage I can’t fully comprehend, Peter stood in front of thousands and said (in Kirk’s vernacular), “Hey, you out there in the square; you took a man of God and put him to death. And God proved Jesus was his man by raising him from the dead.”
Christians hinge our faith on the resurrection, as we should. But let’s never forget, someone had to be first to tell the story to the world. Peter did it. It’s understating things to say, I owe him one.
After Peter finished, those in the town square shouted back, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
Remember, Peter didn’t have years of training in evangelism. He was on the spot and needed an answer, quickly.
His response? “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit.”
Many might read this and say, “We know this stuff–there’s nothing new here. We get it.” But hang on; we’re not there yet.
For years, my evangelical training told me one of the first things a good evangelist does is help someone understand, “You are a sinner.” The “Four Spiritual Laws,” popularized by Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru), starts by telling us God loves us but next, we are asked to understand “all of us sin and our sin separates us from God.”
I’ve used this method; I’m not knocking it. It makes perfect sense. We start with God’s love, then share the bad news with our friend (“Ummm, you’re a sinner. No offense.”).
And at first glance, it appears this is exactly what Peter is doing when he uses the word, “Repent.”
But what does “repent” actually mean? Sackcloth and ashes, fretting and wailing over our horrible deeds? Not exactly. Actually, the Greek word Peter uses is “metanoeo,” meaning, “to think differently,” or, “reconsider.”
So I ask, “What is it that these people must think differently about? What must they reconsider?”
Again, my mind wants to run to “sin” as my answer, because I’m conditioned. Didn’t Peter want everyone to know they are sinners who need saving?
Certainly, there is truth to this. But if my goal is to find a First Faith, I need to place myself in Peter’s audience for a second:
I’m Jewish. I know the prophecies of a coming messiah who will save my people. I’ve been taught this stuff since I was a child.
Up there shouting is a fisherman, Peter, who talks of a man from Nazareth, Jesus. Peter says God worked miracles through Jesus, and I’ve heard those stories for nearly three years. I know Jesus was killed, and Peter puts the blame on all of us for putting him to death.
But I’ve heard other stories going around, too; stories that Jesus came alive again. And Peter, this guy from Galilee, claims God raised Jesus from the dead. Is it true?
Then Peter says those words which change everything:”Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.” I get it now. Peter is telling me Jesus is the promised one, the one who came to save us all.
I’m standing in the square, dumbfounded. A chorus of voices yell out, “What shall we do?” Peter struck a chord with those guys, that’s for sure.
But what about me?
Peter’s first word? “Repent.” Think differently. He wants me to reconsider something.
I get it now. I need to reconsider every single thing I’ve thought about Jesus. Everything.
If we want to advance a First Faith, we first–me included–must reconsider Jesus. Let’s think of him as Peter did. Then, we invite others to join us in following him.
There is so much more to write, and we will. But starting from the beginning, I may need to do some repentin’ and better understand Jesus. On the sin stuff? Peter gets to that and we’ll talk about it, too.
But sin is not our first consideration. Jesus is. More coming. Soon.
Thanks for reading. Comment here or drop me an email here. Let’s keep the conversation going.