Cultural change

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The Pharisee Saul (religious bigot) was transformed into the apostle Paul (passionate missionary) because he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The persecutor of Jerusalem became the persecuted in Jerusalem. The details in the story surprise me.

In Acts 7, the crowd listen intently to Stephen as he shares about how God had led the people of Israel—until he speaks of Jesus. Then they turn on him and this event inspires Saul to persecute all Christians.

In Acts 21 and 22, Paul comes back to Jerusalem with news of the wonders God performed, taking the message of Jesus to the gentile nations. In Jerusalem, thousands follow Jesus but Christian leaders ask Paul to purify himself at the temple.

There, Paul is recognised by Jews from gentile nations while fulfilling his vow. The Jerusalem crowd turn on the apostle after being told he does not teach the Jewish law. The Roman guards rescue him and they allow Paul to speak to the masses.

The Jerusalem crowd listen intently to Paul’s experience and how he met Jesus. This news does not phase them. The crowd had changed in 30 years—or had they? Paul tells them that in this very temple, God called him to take the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. The crowd erupt shouting for Paul’s death. The persecutor has become the persecuted.

A generation on, Jerusalem’s crowd were more accepting of hearing about Jesus, but they shared the same bigoted persecuting culture from the past. How much have we allowed Jesus to change our culture? Our churches, schools, institutions and offices—does the fact we claim and proclaim Jesus change the way we operate or are we just like everybody else? Worth considering and praying “Jesus—save us!”

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