READ: Acts 10
THINK: William Booth met Jesus as a teenager and his life was never the same. He decided to dedicate the time he had on this earth to reaching people for Jesus. But the thing that made Booth stand out – and the legacy he left which remains across the world today – has more to do with the specific people that Booth decided to reach. Not content to take a pastorate in a rural or a well-to-do congregation, Booth dedicated himself to the “least” and the “lost.” He passionately pursued those whom society had rejected and given up on. He started something called The Christian Mission in London where he would tell prostitutes, alcoholics, criminals, and addicts about the gospel. His wife wrote that he would “stumble home night after night haggard with fatigue, often his clothes were torn and bloody bandages swathed his head where a stone had struck.”
In 1861, Booth started the Hallelujah Band, a group of singers from the harried and broken crowd that he ministered too. Many opposed them and refused to associate with his band because it was made up of “bad” people, sinners and unacceptable people. Booth unapologetically said, “We invited a converted poacher, a couple of prize fighters, a jailbird.” A few years later, as he described the Hallelujah Band, the mission he had in London, and the social reforms he hoped to accomplish, and the hope he had to reach those whom society ignored, Booth formed The Salvation Army. Volunteers pledged, “For Christ’s sake, to feed the poor, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend the friendless.”
Acts 10 calls every one of us to catch Booth’s vision for those whom we would consider “other.” Cornelius was a good man, a God fearer, and a generous giver. But he needed the gospel. So God sent Peter to tell him all about who Jesus is and what Jesus did on his behalf. The hard part, though, was convincing Peter. As a Jew, he’d been raised his entire life to avoid Gentiles. He’d been enculturated to believe that they were less than, that they were unclean, impure, and not worthy of his time or attention. And even though he’d spent all that time with Jesus, he forgot the message of inclusion that Jesus preached.
So, God gave him a dream. And the big idea of that dream wasn’t that it was now okay for Jews to eat bacon (though, I for one would like to say that it was a brilliant side-product of the dream which is also true…I’m getting some bacon right after I post this). The big idea was that God wants the gospel message to reach EVERYBODY! Gentiles. Roman officers. Prostitutes, addicts, alcoholics, and sinners. All the broken people and the least and the lost and the untouchables around you!
That’s what the church is all about. In fact, the very idea of church came from Jesus. There hadn’t ever been anything like it before. People gathered together based on tribal or ethnic similarities and occasionally in professional guilds or schools of philosophy in Greece. But the church was totally new in the history of the world. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, in Colossians 3:11-14: “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Before the church nobody had ever thought about intentionally including every single human being on the planet regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, social class, education, background. The church actively sought to include everybody!
Before Jesus not only had there never been a community like this before but there had never even been the idea for something like this before! Never. Let’s live out that idea!
PRAY: Ask God who in your world he wants you to reach out to today. Ask him to open your eyes to your own preferences and prejudices that keep you from spreading his message to everybody. Confess your failures in this area and ask him to help you give yourself to the people around you who need Jesus, no matter who they are or where they’ve been.