The phrase, “I am spiritual but not religious”, is a common phrase spoken in our culture. But do these terms have to be either/or? Can they be both/and? If so, must they be both/and?
2013 was quite a spiritually earth shaking year with the election of Pope Francis. The Catholic Church had been very vilified for the abuse scandals of recent decades. For me Pope Francis was interesting because I had already begun my discernment journey toward the Catholic Church the prior winter but saw myself as one fulfilling my evangelical style and not ending it by becoming a Catholic.
So here comes Francis. Washing the feet of women, asking the crowd to pray for him the night he is elected, saying, “Who am I to judge?” regarding those in the Vatican that struggle with homosexual desires. Even many of the most cynical critics of the Catholic Church took notice of this change in expression of the Catholic Church. What stands out is a renewed credibility of being true to the gospel in being effective yet humble. But he was not the first pope to be like this.
Acts 9:32 “Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed. 34 Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!’ And immediately he got up. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”
Just this paragraph alone shows us a lot.
Jesus Christ heals you
Several years have passed for Peter since the last chapter on Peter that I focused on. The last time he was a part of a narrated miracle he proclaimed a miracle with more wording. Not that there is anything wrong with how he did it before, but here we see Peter being intentionally more simple because he was consumed with the centrality of Jesus. It had to come out in his style.
turned to the Lord.
If I were still a Protestant, I would want to write it that way so there is no appearance of worshipping Peter. But Luke the writer of Acts saw no conflict. Peter was a Christian with no more value in God’s eyes than the average Christian. But he was also a sacramental sign of Christ the High Priest. As an apostle and as the first pope, he is seen as a representative of the Church. But that Church is designed to be an extension of Jesus’ nature. Peter needed to lead with that emphasis.
But the humility component is also an emphasis in Peter’s style.
Acts 9:40 “Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”
Peter put all of them outside
This is important because he had a relationship with the audience this time so that he could structure the situation and not let it become a show. Peter wants the emphasis to be on Jesus every chance he gets. So should anyone who follows Jesus. Also the people he puts out are already believers and the scriptures teach us that the miracles are for people to believe.
This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
At first glance, I want to say that it is the same result as the first miracle of this chapter, but it is not, actually it is better.
I believe in two plus two. I believe in the Grand Canyon. That does not mean I am deeply inspired to a radical life change by those beliefs. In the Greek, to “believe in” is better translated as to “believe into”. I am in this room, I exit into this other room.
Let’s take that term into a deeper level that is not just Greek but in the context of how it is used in Acts. It is used in the context of baptism. In the early years of the Church, as it is now, it is customary for the sacrament of baptism to be accompanied by being confirmed as a member of the Church. But to be confirmed is a religious experience. We are not supposed to want to be religious, right? I mean that would be a matter of bondage to arbitrary rules that hides us from “freedom”, of course.
I Timothy 3:15 “if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”
If you have read this blog enough, you know I have a bias about being Catholic. But don’t let that cloud your view where it comes to seeing Jesus in the lives of sinful people. Be spiritual? Yes. But if you want to call yourself a current Christ-follower, the precedent is that you would be an involved church-joiner as well. Good pope, bad pope (and there have been several). Good pastor, bad pastor. And if the leadership is not living up to Christ’s standard, then pray for them as you hopefully pray for yourself. We are all in this walk of faith together.