02 Jul You’ve been with Jesus: The difference between civility and ability.
“Acts 4:13- Peter and John before the sanhedrin
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is
‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’”
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
I don’t remember the first time I read this passage, but the more time I spend as a disciple, the more I ask the question, “what DOES it mean to have been with Jesus?” Without a doubt, to be with Jesus is not the same thing as to attend church. It’s not the same thing as serving every Sunday, faithfully attending a community group, or memorizing a bunch of Bible verses. Surely the mark of a Christian isn’t just that we eat at Chick-Fil-A, shop at Hobby Lobby, and hang out at coffee shops. I know lots of people who do those sorts of things and are great people, but still aren’t Christians.
Being a nice and upstanding citizen isn’t it either. We can say “yes sir,” “please,” and “thank you,” always drive the speed limit, and follow the laws of our country to a T without having been with Jesus. Those things aren’t bad, but civility and moralism are not exclusive qualities of our faith. Even Jesus says that thieves and sinners can be nice to people they love! I think it’s safe to say that Jesus Himself is probably not impressed with our manners, as the Bible says “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). While it’s important to be polite, those nice things will not drive out darkness or get us through the pain of 2020, where we’re facing Covid-19, heartbreaking racism, job loss, fear, and anxiety. So what is the difference then between a person with civility who throws around niceties on social media and a Christian who has the ability to actually change their surroundings? Being with Jesus.
Nice things are nice, but they don’t drive out darkness from the hearts of people. Martin Luther King Jr has a famous quote which holds true today, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We all know that MLK was a doctor, but what’s not talked about enough is what he was a doctor of: theology! The study of God; the person of Jesus Christ! So whose love was he referring to, I wonder? I believe he was referring to the love and ability of a person who has been with Jesus. It wasn’t just a nice and wise quote he thought of in the shower; it was truly a reflection of the God who he served, who he understood to be, and who ultimately empowered him to stand up to the evils and injustices of the world. Unlike manners, morals, and politeness, a true mark of a Christian is the exclusive ability to drive out darkness and rid society from the evils hidden in the hearts of people.
In the passage I referenced earlier, Peter and Stephen, disciples of Jesus, were sent to a civil court for healing a man through the power and authority of Christ. I think we can all agree that performing a miracle on account of someone who needed it is definitely a “nice thing.” But Peter said that the miracle itself was less noteworthy than the Person who gives the ability to perform the miracle in the first place. It was at this moment that the council member was “astonished and noted that these men had been with Jesus.”
What we need in this time of unrest aren’t manners, nice Christian cliches for Facebook, or perfect civility. What this world needs in 2020 are Christians who embrace the call and authority we have from God to preach the gospel, baptize others, and reconcile people to Christ. We need the boldness that Jesus gives to have the ability to disciple people out of darkness and into God’s marvelous light. While the rest of the world has given up on others for being too racist, bigots, insensitive, arrogant and unreachable, we have the ability and authority to perform miracles in hopeless situations. Psychiatry can’t do that, medicine can’t do that, counseling can’t do that, not even Oprah or Dr. Oz or Kanye can do that! The miracle of discipling someone out of the trenches of racism, hatred, anger, lust, greed, or envy is one of the marks of a Christian. So is it possible to preach (share the gospel) without words? NO! It is possible to be nice without words, but as Christians we are not called to just be nice, but to preach. Maybe your preaching isn’t as loud or vocal as mine, and maybe you are not called to be a full-time minister like I am. That’s okay! But I know that we can all agree that now is not the time to be silent. The Gospel of Jesus is the one thing on this earth that should be declared and shouted from the rooftops. I would even argue that the only appropriate response to the good news of salvation is to share it boldly with others, especially in times of crises. The fact remains, and the math adds up: when we evangelize, people repent. When we talk about how God has rescued us from our own sin and tell our testimonies, evil loses and darkness is driven out.
Do you trust that God still moves, still convicts, still heals, and still saves, even in times of pandemics and protests? I believe He does. Do you believe that God can work a miracle through you? Do you believe that God will give you the strength and wisdom to have hard conversations, know how to speak, how to act, how to hold on, how to share your faith, and how to love? I believe He will. That is the difference between civility and the ability of a Christian. To seek, to reach, and to reconcile people to God and to each other. That’s how people can tell that you’ve been with Jesus. The ability of Christian is to perform the miracle of discipleship and drive out darkness through the gospel of Christ.