Recently I heard our beloved Willie Jennings speak about Acts. He said one of the recurrent themes is Christians being drawn by the Spirit towards people they really want nothing to do with. Peter is drawn towards Cornelius. Phillip is drawn towards an Ethiopian eunuch. Others are drawn towards Greek Gentiles. I suppose even Paul is drawn towards those who want to kill him (how willingly he goes, though)! This is one of the beautiful workings of the Spirit, bringing vastly different people together under God, showing that the God of love receives anyone.
Or so Jennings puts it. Whether his words and Acts have historical truth I table for now. But the theme he identifies really seems to be in the text.
I was caught by that idea because (again, tabling the question of God) I have found my being here to be a similar situation. I did not come here entirely enthusiastically. I wanted to be in the best program I could, but I was dismayed by the people I knew I would meet. People who thought women in ministry-leadership and homosexuality in the Church were just givens. People who didn’t affirm the Bible’s inerrancy.
Then I became what I most feared – an unbeliever. But, strange enough, this hasn’t solved my social issues. Rather than make me receptive to all types, I still just don’t know what I think about people here.
I can’t accurately put it into words because I can’t accurately comprehend it. At times, the words “And Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew what was in the heart of man” come to mind. Wow – Can I get a messiah complex here, please? Anyway, something about that textual detail resonates for me.
I just don’t know if I trust these people. Why not? Well, although I am not calling myself a believer right now I would say I still have ideas about what the “right things” to do with Scripture are and what the “right ways” to live as a Christian are. Frankly, these ideas are quite different from many of my fellow students’ ideas.
Sin? Evangelism? These are just two things massively under-emphasized by many people at Duke, and I don’t really get it.
Sin is at least as obvious of a theme throughout Scripture as the theme Jennings identified in Acts. For the very concept of atonement, sin is a sine qua non. And from what I see here, not only do people not want to confess or announce sin, they often pretend they have no part in it. Sex, drugs, obscenities, bickering – these are just embraced activities of life for them.
Evangelism: sure there are problems with how it is often practiced, and the early church’s context was very different from ours, but I haven’t heard anyone suggest that the Church’s mission (from the Latin mittere, “to send”) is to stagnate, equalize, or wane. So where is the evangelistic action?
These things do not explain why I wouldn’t trust my peers, however. Like I said, I just don’t know. Maybe I just think their ideas about God and faith are really wacky. “Wacky” isn’t really descriptive but it might be all I’ve got.
Theists in general are bugging me right now. They are a strange bunch.
Anyhow, I will continue to inquire what it is that is off-putting to me about many of my peers.
Do these ideas resonate with anyone else? What have you noticed about not feeling like you fit in? Or about feeling like your social “matrix” was not what you wanted or could trust?