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On the Church Steps: Response


Confronted by a need and an expectation on the door step of the Temple, the story from Acts 2 takes an interesting twist. “Peter said, ‘I don’t have any money for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!’ Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened” (Acts 3:6-7, NLT).

Rather than meet the expectation, Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit, exceeded the expectation. I think this raises an important question: How do we respond to the expectations of those on the church steps?

Sometimes we may choose to avoid those expectations. We avoid the expectation by, proverbially speaking, entering the Temple at a different gate. Or, more commonly, we simply don’t make eye contact. There’s something about eye contact that acknowledges existence and reality. If we don’t make eye contact, it doesn’t exist in our own reality.

Other times we may choose to accomodate the expectations. This is a simple reponse that meets the need at face value. If the lame man asked for a couple of bucks and Peter and John had given a couple of bucks, no one would have condemned them for that. In fact, in our modern American culture, we would probably celebrate them. But if all they did was accomodate the need, we wouldn’t be talking about it today. Commendable? Yes. Worth preserving for 2,000 years in Holy Scripture? Hardly.

Accomodating people’s needs isn’t all bad, and I don’t want to sound disparaging. God’s people, clothed with compassion, should seek to meet needs as much as possible. I am pleased to be in a church that seeks to accomodate every request that comes to our steps. Having said that, Peter and John didn’t accomodate the lame man’s need. Rather they chose to participate in his need.

Participating in one’s need means that you roll up your sleeves and get involved with the real issues at hand. Rather than perpetuate a bad situation, they offered to invest in the lame man to the extent that his life was forever changed. They didn’t meet his expectation, they exceeded it.

This is where being a Christian can potentially get messy. Granted, the Acts 3 account though powerful, is neat and clean. He couldn’t walk. He was healed. And everyone lived happily ever after. But often times our experiences in participating in people’s lives aren’t so neat. People’s lives can be pretty complicated, and the emotional and mental scars from where they are wounded don’t go away so quickly. After all, not every need is visible to the eye. Nonetheless, I think Jesus calls us to participate in people’s needs. Maybe not everyone’s. But certainly some one’s. But by God’s grace and through the power he continues to make available to us through his Holy Spirit, we roll up our sleeves and do work. After all, that’s what being the presence of Christ tangibly is all about.

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