An Unusual Privilege: Repentance
We often think of privilege as an advantage we have over another person. And in the secular world that may be accurate. But as followers of Jesus our privilege is different . . .
Do you remember the phrase “paradigm shift?” It was phrase popularized by Stephen Covey of the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ fame. As I remember it a ‘paradigm’ is a pattern for seeing and understanding the world around us. Our patterns are usually established by our upbringing, our culture, our religious beliefs, etc . . . And then, on occasion, something happens and we have an experience or new insight that radically changes our patterns. We experience a paradigm shift.
I spent some time this morning reading in Acts 10 and 11 of the account of the interaction between Peter and the Roman centurion Cornelius. It’s a fascinating read. If you haven’t read it recently I encourage you do to so. In fact, pause your reading of this for a few moments and go read that text.
There is a lot in that text that could be seen as paradigm shifts.
- Peter has a vision of unclean food on a blanket and the voice of Lord telling him to kill and eat.
- Peter enters the home of a Gentile.
- The Gentiles hear the Good News.
- The Holy Spirit falls on the unclean Gentiles.
- And it goes on and on….
The point that rocked me this morning is in chapter 11 verse 18:
“When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”
Do you see it? The paradigm shift? The privilege is in repentance. ‘Repentance,’ isn’t that a word of judgment? Condemnation? It’s certainly not a word we tend to use very much today. And the Scripture pushes us to see it here as a privilege. Isn’t that an interesting way to think about it? That’s definitely a paradigm shift for most us. Repentance is a word and experience of the grace of God. It is a privilege.
So, as followers of Jesus, we are extended the privilege of repentance. And the result of that privilege is eternal life.
But let’s push the paradigm shift a bit more. The context of the passage is that the privilege of repentance and eternal life was being extended beyond those who were already believers in God. These gifts were being given to all who came to believe in Jesus Christ. Not just the Jews or the early Christians; but even to the unclean Gentiles. For Peter and the early church this was an amazing paradigm shift. I wonder how much of a paradigm shift this is for us in today’s church?
Some Questions to consider:
- What do we think of ‘repentance’ today?
- Do you hear it as a word of grace? Privilege? Or condemnation?
- Who will you extend grace toward this day?
- Who is it that we see as ‘unclean’ and unworthy of the gospel?
- What will God have to do to shift our way of seeing people?
One last thought… Peter went into Cornelius’ home (at the leading of the Spirit), He preached Jesus, the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles, and all that happened before anyone even mentions repentance. I see a pattern here, do you?
Grace and Peace,