“I now realize….”
Cornelius was a Roman Centurion, a Gentile, not a Jew. He ate pork and never entered a synagogue. He was not one of ‘us’.
Despite that fact, there came a day when he received a word from God (whom the Jews thought was ‘theirs’) instructing him to invite Simon Peter to his home.
The next day just before men arrived at Peter’s door he had a vision in broad daylight; it was a large sheet full of animals that he was commanded to kill for food. Peter protested and identified the animals as unclean according to Jewish law and tradition. “Do not call anything I have made unclean” came the retort.
Then he too received a word from God about an impending request from a Gentile for a visit; and he was instructed to accompany them. A day later, after a long journey by foot Peter was standing amidst Gentiles in the Centurion’s home sharing their experiences of the same God. It was a revelation to Peter that cut through tradition, culture, mindsets, and deep prejudice.
In great humility Peter’s opening sentence was, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism…”
One of the most encouraging and attractive things about Peter is that we can relate so easily to him, precisely because his struggles are ours. Despite his many misunderstandings Jesus never abandoned him or humiliated him in his struggle to make sense of the impossible. There were quite a few moments when Simon Peter muttered, “I now realize….” Perhaps it was these ‘moments of frustration’ that formed the basis for Peter eventually being able to hear and obey God’s heart for the Gentiles. He couldn’t be used there if he hadn’t worked through all the other ‘moments’ here and now; such as……
I now realize…. this man called Jesus is not ordinary (after the miraculous catch of fish when they first met and Jesus called Simon to follow him)
I now realize…. that Jesus does miraculous healing (after witnessing Jesus heal his sick mother in law)
I now realize ….. that Jesus is unpredictable, compassionate, and practical (after witnessing the feeding of the 5,000)
I now realize…. that Jesus honors me when I take risks and will be there when I sink (after stepping out of the boat and walking on water with Him)
I now realize….. that Jesus lives in absolute peace and trust in His Father’s faithfulness (when the disciples were terrified of a storm and Jesus slept in the boat before calming the wild sea)
I now realize…. that Jesus prophetic word that |I will be a ‘rock’ is beyond what I believe about myself (after Jesus declared that Simon’s name would be Peter)
I now realize…. that I haven’t seen or understood anything yet (after standing on the Mount of Transfiguration with James, John, Moses and Elijah and Jesus in all His glory)
I now realize…. that my solutions, despite my passion, are not always how Jesus acts (after cutting off a Roman soldier’s ear with a sword in Gethsemane)
I now realize…. that I’m not as spiritual as I imagined (after falling asleep when Jesus asked for prayer in Gethsemane)
I now realize…. that I totally overestimate my strength and ability to follow Jesus (after Peter denied Jesus three times as he approached crucifixion)
I now realize…. that no matter how I fail Jesus will forgive and never abandon me (after Jesus met him on shore of Galilee and said, “Do you love me?”)
I now realize…. that I am totally dependent upon Jesus and His Spirit alive in me (after waiting in Jerusalem and being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost)
I now realize….. that God can use me just like I witnessed Him using Jesus (after he and John healed the crippled man at the temple gate)
I now realize…. that God’s Spirit can flow through me with power, give me courage, and set me free to be ‘the rock’ I never imagined three years ago (after Peter spoke and 3000 were baptized)
I read an article (by Matty Granger) this morning that described how so many of us today live in a bubble where we won’t allow those who disagree with us to have a voice…..
The fuel of social media is narcissism.
What happens when people aren’t as easily distracted as they once were? Easy. You find the one thing that people will never be distracted from themselves.
Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Likes. Self satisfaction. Self aggrandizement. It’s so easy. YOU are your number one distraction from reality. And they knew it all along.
Leading up to the US Election, we were all deeply self-involved. Our feelings and our opinions were ultra-correct and the people we chose to be in our social media circles backed them up. You CANNOT prove a feeling or an opinion wrong, especially when there are hundreds, if not thousands of your friends chanting in agreement with you.
However, once the election was over, that changed.
The ‘other’ voices have invaded our bubbles. We’re forced to hear them. They cannot be ignored. They can be argued, sure, but now you can’t get away from them and sometimes, just sometimes, you realize that “Holy shit… I might have been wrong”. You keep hearing the phrase ‘echo chamber’ and dammit it’s starting to make some sense.
Reality is setting in.
The bubbles are bursting.
Our narcissism has been infringed upon… and now we will see the backlash.
It will start with statuses like “I’m sick of hearing about politics”. (I’m sure you’re already seeing those.) Then the quiet “unfollows” will come, followed swiftly by “I’m deleting anyone who talks about politics/disagrees with me”. The selfies will return, the meal prep and Throwback Thursdays. Anything but politics – anything that makes people realize that their bubbles have burst – anything that makes people feel like the world is bigger than they are.
People are now beginning to long for the safe cocoons of their narcissism.
If you’re reading this, I encourage you not to be one of these people. I encourage you to allow the reality and the facts and the things that may be different than what you feel in your world to exist in it. I encourage you to listen to each other. I encourage you to be flexible in your discussions, because we go nowhere when inflexibility dead-ends us. I encourage you not to give up on the people you disagree with.
Let that stuff into your bubble regardless of which side you’re on, because if you want unity, and I mean truly want it, the biggest hurdle that we first have to get over is ourselves.
There were probably many times Peter was tempted to ‘unfollow Jesus’ and no doubt every one of the disciples. Ironically those were the very moments when God wanted to break though and enable Peter to ‘now realize’ something about Jesus, or himself that would help him grow into a better version of himself.
Conflict is not when we have differing points of view; it’s when we allow the expression of differences to sabotage relationships and to release judgement, blaming, and name calling.
Let’s embrace the moments of confusion, misunderstanding, even frustration and be open to what God has for us just beyond. Most often real transformation and growth takes place in the midst of life, not merely in our heads or by clicking a ‘like’ on Facebook.
“I now realize..” has to be on the lips of every disciple of Jesus 🙂