8:25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
Just one verse yet when you consider the Story it is a most remarkable one. Some would say unbelievable. Others would flat out call it impossible.
As we continue to reel from the worst mass shooting in recent US history as well as what might have happened on the same day in southern California it's obvious the level of hate in society is rising. This fact is evidenced not only by the tragic attacks themselves but by our varied reactions to them. Racism in America between blacks and whites is rising again. The right and left have never been further apart in my lifetime. The emergence of the LGBTQ movement further divides it seems. Everywhere we look someone is hating someone for something.
The reality is that cultures of hate are not new. When Jesus was walking the dusty roads of Judea and beyond one author described it as the darkest hour of human history. The hatred was palpable. It was not only culturally acceptable but encouraged. Within Judaism itself there were deep and clearly defined lines. To the far right were the Pharisees. To the far left were the Sadducees. The Herodians were considered traitors for cozying up to the Romans and the Essenes handled it all by withdrawing from society. All of them hated each other. All of them couldn't believe how stupid and ridiculous the rest of them were.
The only thing that exceeded their hatred for each other was their hatred for outsiders. The half breed Samaritans were treated worse than animals and the Gentiles (everyone else) were dogs. Less than human. In a word the entire situation was toxic. Jesus told a story about being a good neighbour in which a priest and a Levi saw a man dying in the street from a beating and crossed the road to avoid being made "unclean". The church taught that if you had problems or illness it was because God was punishing you for your evil. The disciples themselves were racist and prejudice to the core, even asking Jesus to call down fire from heaven on an entire Samaritan village! John was one of the ones who made that request. So full of anger was he that he was known as a "son of thunder".
Now do you see why that singular verse is so remarkable? Peter and John traveled through Samaria testifying and preaching the good news. They shared with the previously hated half breeds what God had done for them and then what He longed to do for everyone.
Talk about a change of heart! It's what Jesus called conversion - becoming a new person. Hate gets replaced with love. Anger becomes joy. Bitterness becomes gratitude. The love of God eclipses everything else and spills over onto everyone around.
Last week a US senator quoted the Bible in a prayer wishing for Obama to die. The man considers himself a Christian yet the evidence shows He does not know Christ. He has not discovered the Truth that turned a son of thunder into a lover of his "enemies".
As the song says "What the world needs now is love, sweet love... It's the only thing that there's just too little of."
We need Jesus desperately. Nothing else has the power to stem the tsunami of hatred that is building...