Monday, August 21, 2006

God's Beautiful 'Nevertheless'

Andrea, a friend of mine from New Jersey, raised an interesting question to me in an email the other day. She was reading Acts and wanted to know how Acts 5:13-14 made sense:

No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.

My two-cents on the matter went something like this:

Acts 5:13-14: These two verses seem to contradict one another, but it looks to me like the tension here highlights the mystery and miracle of coming to believe in Christ.

“No one else dared to join them…”—left on their own, the people do not dare join the company of people who witness to the Resurrection of Christ.

“even though they were highly regarded…”—so, people, even when they consider the high reputation of the church, do not dare, of their own will, to join it. It appears to their minds to be an “impossible possibility.”

“Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.”—Isn’t that a beautiful “nevertheless”? Despite every human desire to the contrary, despite every good reason to stay away from the church, God’s “nevertheless” intervenes so that women and men “were added” to their number, not added by a choice that began with them, but added by a choice that began with God and cut through their doubt and fear. God’s “nevertheless” cuts our own hesitation to ribbons. What was impossible in v. 13 is made possible by God in v. 14. Hallelujah.

Believing in Christ is a mystery because we cannot fathom the “how” of coming to believe. It is a miracle because God is the one who adds to the church’s number with his “nevertheless.”

Immediately before in the disturbing passage about Ananias and Sapphira we are reminded that God is a jealous God who punishes evil even in the hearts of His followers; yet in v.13-14, we are reminded that God is also a merciful God who calls people to Himself despite their sinful rejection of faith and obedience. We approach the God we love then with both fear and awe; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit deserve (and demand) no less from us.

And, I might add, in beginning this trek with Graduate and Faculty Ministries at Vanderbilt University, it will be important for me to remember that while I can make it so that our community is well spoken of and admired on campus, I cannot coerce or force the "nevertheless." Until the Father moves through the Spirit to point to Christ as the Way, Truth, and Life, all I can do is bear witness and pray for God's beautiful, intervening "nevertheless."

No comments:

Post a Comment