ESSAY-LIKE SUNDAY MORNING: Todays Sunday School lesson was entitled, REACHING OUT. The Scripture was from Acts 8:26-39. The KEY VERSE was verse 35 which reads, “Phillip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35, NIV)
In this lesson, Phillip encountered an African man of high status while traveling along a stretch of desert road. The following is the narrative of that encounter.
“’…An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south down the road which runs from Jerusalem to Gaza, out in the desert.”
Philip arose and began his journey. At this very moment an Ethiopian eunuch, a minister and in fact the treasurer to Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, was on his way home after coming to Jerusalem to worship. He was sitting in his carriage reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, “Approach this carriage, and keep close to it.”
Then as Philip ran forward he heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah, and he said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
And he replied, “How can I unless I have someone to guide me?”
And he invited Philip to get up and sit by his side. The passage of scripture he was reading was this:
‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation, his justice was taken away. And who will declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.’
The eunuch turned to Philip and said, “Tell me, I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this—is he speaking about himself or about someone else?”
Then Philip began, and using this scripture as a starting point, he told the eunuch the good news about Jesus. As they proceeded along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, here is some water; is there any reason why I should not be baptized now?”
And he gave orders for the carriage to stop. Then both of them went down to the water and Philip baptized the eunuch. When they came up out of the water the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away suddenly and the eunuch saw no more of him, but proceeded on his journey with a heart full of joy.’”
Phillips actions were impressive because he was willing to cross boundaries and barriers to effect positive change. The barriers of race, ethnicity, social status, and linguistic differences did nothing to dissuade Phillip from obeying God and preaching the Good News of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.
Many “Christians” today aren’t nearly as persistent or as undaunted by the barriers they encounter when spreading God’s word. They don’t mind speaking to those who fit within their comfort zones about Christ, but when asked to step outside of those zones, they balk. One of the most substantial barriers standing between some Christians and obeying Jesus’ command that we go forth and preach the gospel is that of race.
Not long after giving his famed “I Have A Dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. was invited to lecture on race at Western Michigan University. After the lecture, Dr. King was asked, “Don’t you feel that integration can only be started and realized in the Christian church, not in schools or by other means?” In response to the question, Dr King made the following statement:
“We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this. Now, I’m sure that if the church had taken a stronger stand all along, we wouldn’t have many of the problems that we have. The first way that the church can repent, the first way that it can move out into the arena of social reform is to remove the yoke of segregation from its own body. Now, I’m not saying that society must sit down and wait on a spiritual and moribund church as we’ve so often seen. I think it should have started in the church, but since it didn’t start in the church, our society needed to move on. The church, itself, will stand under the judgement of God. Now that the mistake of the past has been made, I think that the opportunity of the future is to really go out and to transform American society, and where else is there a better place than in the institution that should serve as the moral guardian of the community. The institution that should preach brotherhood and make it a reality within its own body.” (MLK)
Our textbook asked these two compelling question:
- What is your congregation doing, or what can it do, to break down cross-cultural barriers?
- What other barriers keep people from enjoying fellowship in our congregations?
As Christians, we are eager to see people of other cultures receive the Gospel. Although we may have some hesitation in evangelizing to those of another culture because it takes us out of our comfort zones, we should still eagerly seek to participate in cross-cultural evangelism. Although we encounter different cultures, the Holy Spirit makes us one with Christ. That is why we should eagerly respond to God’s call to take the Gospel to other cultures. We should resist the temptation to set boundaries for the Gospel of Jesus. We should strive to help others understand the Scripture.