15:12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
16 ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up;
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.’
It is truly a miracle. These men born and raised in the deepest kind of religio-political prejudice and elitism are opening both their ears and hearts to the most profound and surreal truth. Our Jewish God is the God of all people. It may seem obvious now but for them it was a leap across the widest and deepest chasm. This realization was the culmination of a work God had been doing ever since He called Abraham. In the very first promise He said "In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed." This was not so radical for Abraham. He was an affluent man and the nation of Israel did not even yet exist. For him it was obvious all nations belonged to God. After all, all the nations came from one family not so long before.
However over the centuries the Jewish nation developed a view of themselves and of the world that was entirely contrary to the plans of God and to reality. Remember Jonah? Already at that time the prejudice was so deep that Jonah wanted God to burn up the Ninevites rather than forgive them. The walls around the city of Jerusalem became more than just a means of protection in war. They marked a line in the hearts of the people: "us" and "them".
I see such walls being built today. I hear a lot of "us" and "them" rhetoric all over the world. It hurts me most to see it in America. I have roots there. I read with pride and hope and idealism the words inscribed on the plaque on the statue of liberty. The plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
I am not ignorant of history. This is not the first rise of "us" and "them" in our history. We turned an entire ship of fleeing Jews away from our shores in the time of Hitler. There are always reasons. The issues are complex. Prejudice runs deep. Fear is real. I look at ISIS and know their philosophy. They really believe in what they are doing. It is as deeply ingrained in them as Jewish elitism was back there in that council in Jerusalem. That is what makes the events so amazing. That is why I refuse to not have hope. If God could get those hard hearts to open and those blocked ears to listen He can do it again. The issues of our times don't demand policies and walls, they demand a miracle. A miracle happened in that council. I still believe in a miracle working God.