Unity In A Time Of Division
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. — Acts 8:14-17
What you see happening here is of great spiritual significance. And the backstory makes this even more fascinating.
You see, for over 700 years, there was a long-standing tension between Jews and Samaritans. While these two groups of people had a lot in common religiously, one factor led to their contention. When Jews were taken into captivity, some chose to intermarry with the Assyrian people. And devout Jews were appalled by this. Thus they considered these Jews religious sell-outs. This group became known as Samaritans. Ironically they both continued to worship the Almighty God yet embraced some minor nuances in how and where they did this. But the animosity between these two groups increased over hundreds of years. Devout Jews canceled, dismissed, and ignored Samaritans. They even avoided traveling through the region where they lived — Samaria.
With knowledge of this history, all the details of this encounter are a little extraordinary. First, that Philip travels into the region of Samaria. Second, that Philip shares the Gospel with Samaritans. Third, that the Samaritan people respond by being baptized. Fourth, that Peter and John, who are also Jews, come as well. And fifth, that they lay hands on them so they can receive the Holy Spirit. This is just a little bit mind-blowing given the baggage that had built over the years.
But consider the present time.
We live in a very divided season. And division is painful. But sometimes, the division produces good results. Division will cleanse the system of impurity. But during these seasons, animosity can grow into something harmful. It can turn into hate and rejection of others. Like it did for the Jews and Samaritans here. And this is happening in our times. We hear stories of this happening in families, churches, and businesses. And while we should embrace these seasons of cleansing, we should take care not to let this division turn into animosity that becomes hatred of people. Instead, we need to turn our hatred toward our sin and not to hatred of other people.
In the end, what we seek is truth. But we mistakenly believe we can possess the truth — thus, we identify it as "our" truth. This is exactly what divided Jews and Samaritans, "their" version of the truth. But the truth is not "ours" or "theirs" to possess. It's "ours" and "theirs" to believe but not to possess. Only one is capable of possessing it — the God of all Truth. It's his alone. And when we try to possess it, God will pluck up, break down, destroy, and overturn these strongholds. They are strongholds that have been established against God. And we must all address our role in these matters. We must address our sin and let God cleanse our hearts with His Truth.
And when we address our sin, both individually and collectively, something significant happens. God builds and plants something new. Something new that unites us under His Truth through His Son. And those united under God will be seared and possessed, not by hatred, but by the Holy Spirit. And when this happens, people of different backgrounds who once opposed each other will unite. They will lay down their hostility against one another, realizing they have only been hostile to God.
Are you ready to learn the lesson of our time of great division? Join me in laying down our hostility to God, unite under His Truth, and live a life directed by the Holy Spirit.
ASK THIS: Are you tired of the division?
DO THIS: Lay down your hostility to God, unite under His Truth, and live directed by the Holy Spirit. (Share in the comments below.)
PRAY THIS: God, I am tired of the division. It's exhausting. May I never be hostile to you. I invite the Spirit to sear my heart. Renew me and use me to advance this message with others.
PLAY THIS: The Same Jesus — Matt Redman.
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