Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” Acts 22:21
“Until he said this.” Mentioning the Gentiles was the trigger that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Yet this wasn’t a completely new thought to the Jews. All through the Old Testament, God promised to bless all nations through Israel. At times he sent prophets to pagan nations and in Isaiah, we read, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). So why was the crowd’s reaction so violent?
The crowd realized that Paul was going to invite Gentiles into relationship with God without these people first becoming Jews. It would place Gentiles before God on the same standing as Jews. This was an affront to them. They placed so much value and importance on their traditions as a means of approaching God that it was unthinkable that others could simply bypass their customs and have access to God.
Are there things in our culture, our past, our traditions that we hang onto at the expense of others? Rather than making it easy for others to come to Christ, do we put obstacles and non-essentials in their way? Obstacles such as Christian jargon, dated liturgies, dress codes, abstinence from alcohol. These things may have been important in our Christian walk and growth but they may not be necessary for the next generation of believers.
How comfortable are we with new believers ignoring what is valuable to us and having a relationship with God that doesn’t include our customs?