READINGS FOR TODAY: Proverbs 25-26 Acts 4:23-37
“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.” Acts 4: 23
The back story to this verse is a famous one. Every day a man crippled from birth had been laid at the gate called Beautiful. Every day he begged as people went into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. “Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention expecting to get something from them.” Peter and John had no money, so they gave the cripple all that they had, the power of Jesus Name. “In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” A mighty miracle ensued. Immediately his feet and ankles received strength and he walked. Everyone who saw the miracle was amazed and filled with wonder.
The miracle accomplished what miracles are supposed to accomplish. People gathered, filling Solomon’s porch. They eagerly heard the message of Jesus and thousands of lives were changed.
The downside of the miracle is that the religious community was ready to deal harshly with Peter and John They were arrested and imprisoned. Because the entire city was taking note of the great miracle, the accusers didn’t know what to do. They couldn’t help noticing the courage of the disciples. “…they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” They were eventually scolded and released.
Following their release, they returned to their own people. This passage has always blessed me. We all need a group that we can call our own people. That is not to say that we avoid relationships with anyone who is not a part of our “clique.” We become known by our associations.
I feel safe when I am with my own people. Sometimes it’s with my family of origin and sometimes not. With my own people there is no need of couching my words in subtle language. I am accepted for who I am. My needs are understood. My sense of humor (or lack thereof) is tolerated. The church with all of its imperfections provides small group venues that should provide a safe place for its members. If only that were always true! Even there, we must look for a group that we can identify with. What we believe. How we interact. When we do find such a group, we gravitate to it and they become ours. Our own people!
Peter and John had been persecuted for the miracle that they had performed. They could have lost their lives. It was the safety of their own people that spared them any further anxiety. After hearing the report of Peter and John, the group did a great thing.
“…they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”
As I focus on the present state of my own church, I am glad to acknowledge that these are my people. I feel safe as I stand in the gap between the loss of our pastor of nineteen years, and the mystery of what will be our future. The same Sovereign Lord that inspired Peter and John and their friends calls us to put our trust in Him.
I repeat, we are known by our associations. Peter and John carried the fragrance of their relationship with Jesus and met with others who carried the same fragrance. When safety and comfort were needed, they knew where to go.
When our kids were young, we always stressed the importance of intentionally choosing good friends. When they were going out, we always wanted to know who they would be with.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where it is possible to live across the lawn from our closest neighbor and never learn their name. Life presents us the opportunity to open our hearts and our front doors to invite our neighbors to learn what it means to belong.
As I wind down my thoughts with you, I would ask you, “Who are your own people? Who are you comfortable with?” If you don’t have such a group yet, you’ll need one. Reach out and make some new friends.