Reading this chapter was a straight up gut check for me. When people look at my life, what do they see? I’d like to think they see someone who pursues Jesus with her whole heart. But do they really? I know that’s what people saw when they looked at Peter’s life. He did what God told him to do. He shared the gospel. And he didn’t care if went against the grain of what was socially acceptable at the time. He didn’t care what people thought or what they said about him. He cared about one thing: obediently following Jesus.
In Peter’s case, you could see the difference in the way he pursued people. He passionately shared the gospel with people whether they were part of the Jewish community or not. He opted to be obedient to God rather than to Jewish customs. And people didn’t like this too much. They talked about him and criticized him for it. But he didn’t care. He explained what God had told him to do, and he kept doing it. And he turned it back around on them too. He basically said, “If God has welcomed these people in, who am I to keep them out? I’m not going to get in God’s way. Are you?”
Am I getting in God’s way?
Everyone I know is aware that I’m a believer. But, people I’ve never met don’t know that. So when they see me, what do they see? Do they see a life that looks different? Or am I just like every other person they encounter day in and day out? Do they notice anything different in the way I talk with them? Or the way I act towards them? Or the way I treat them?
Again, I ‘d like to think they do. But do they really?
I want every single thing I do, say, or think to point people to Jesus. And I surely don’t want to do anything that turns anyone away from him. So how do I do that? I think verse 23 says it so well when Barnabas is encouraging some of the disciples. He tells them to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” Or, in the KJV, that “with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” Here’s what that says to me:
In order to cleave to the Lord and remain faithful to him, I first have to make a clean break from everything else that tries to influence me. Then I have to join with him so much that it’s like I’m gluing myself to him. To do that with purpose of heart or steadfast purpose means that remaining faithful to him becomes the purpose of everything about my life: my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, my words. Everything.
I don’t think it’s possible to remain faithful to the Lord in this way and NOT look different. Just look at Jesus.
Jesus was the perfect example of this kind of faithfulness. He was faithful to the point of death on the cross because my lack of faithfulness made it necessary. He followed God perfectly because he had to do it for me. He showed me what to strive for, knowing I could never do it on my own. He loved and served and sacrificed without the promise of anything in return, and he asked for zero recognition while he was doing it.
I may not be able to follow him perfectly, but I can absolutely follow him in a way that looks different. I can respond to his work for me on the cross by living in a way that, even though it’s not perfect, will point people to him. I can love and give and serve with everything in me, no matter what the response might be. And when I don’t do that, he’ll give me grace and mercy and let me try again.
Jesus looks different. So following Jesus looks different. I want to look different.