By Robert Halsey Pine
“The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah, ‘Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull…’” (Acts 28:17-31 NRSV).
Paul then goes on to tell the Jewish leaders in Rome, “…that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Have our hearts grown dull? Are we listening and understanding in our churches? Are we looking and then perceiving? When we get too comfortable in our religion, are we any different than the Jews that Paul preached to? He tried to tell them about the kingdom of God and the role of Jesus in fulfilling God’s plan through the law of Moses and through the prophets.
Early Christianity was a movement. It is now, in many places, an institution. This is a normal progression for the church, but we must not let our faith get institutionalized. We must be missionaries in our own cities and towns. The need is there. Millions of people are hungry for something more in their lives. It’s up to us to share the love of God in our environments. There are people within our own churches that are searching. We must find ways to share with each other. We must share our beliefs as well as our doubts.
I keep going back to what David wrote in Psalm 16. He said of God, “I have no good apart from you.” We don’t need to be looking for “good”. We need to be seeking God, and “good” will come. This is our mission and ministry. We must seek God together. We must help each other when we stumble. We must go back and get those who have fallen by the wayside. What made Paul so relentless in his ministry? He met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He never forgot that meeting and what Jesus commissioned him to do. What will it take in our lives? Will Jesus have to blind us to get our attention?
Father God, help me listen; I want to understand. Teach me to look; I want to perceive. Heal my heart. It has grown dull. AMEN.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.