17 May 2011Acts 11:19-26
"and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians'" (v. 26)
In this passage we hear of the dispersed community, those who
have scattered in the face of persecution following the death of
Stephen, executed by stoning for breaking the Jewish blasphemy laws
(Acts 6:8 - 7:60). As they travelled they spread
the gospel (good news) and the believing community grew to such an
extent that the Apostles who remained in Jerusalem as the Church
scattered, sent Barnabas as a go-between, a vital link between
Jerusalem and the new sister church developing in Antioch and who
now came to identify themselves as Christians. Barnabas becomes the
agent by which Saul is reintroduced to the story. Saul had changed
from being a zealous persecutor of Christians (Acts
7:54 - 8:3). He had experienced the call of God upon his life
and was beginning to being brought into the story quietly as a
teacher alongside Barnabas helping to teach and form the new
community of believers (Acts
The fact that this community now described themselves as Christian may or may not be significant. But here is a group that holds clearly within its membership those who are outside the Jewish tradition as well as those within, and who now have given verbal expression to their gathering as disciples of Christ.
Recall your own journey of faith and how you first claimed the word Christian as your own. Ponder on what has changed, what has stayed the same and how the word has expression in your life now.
How is it possible that someone so zealous in their persecution of those who are 'different' or who are on the other side of a religious divide to the point of being instrumental in their deaths might have such a sudden change of heart?
In today's society how are we to believe that those who commit terrible deeds in the name of their god can demonstrate genuine repentance?