There are always those places that have a bad reputation, certain areas of towns, particular estates, or even whole towns. The town we live in doesn’t have a brilliant name, but there are some amazing people who live here. How easily we right places off, and by association a whole group of people. Fortunately God doesn’t.
14 The apostles in Jerusalem heard that some people in Samaria had accepted God’s message, and they sent Peter and John. 15 When the two apostles arrived, they prayed that the people would be given the Holy Spirit. 16 Before this, the Holy Spirit had not been given to anyone in Samaria, though some of them had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Peter and John then placed their hands on everyone who had faith in the Lord, and they were given the Holy Spirit.
This passage comes about after the stoning of Stephen, and the disciples scattering – for their survival. The irony of course being that as Paul was trying to stop the church by making trouble for them and arresting them, he actually managed to spread it wider. Nothing was going to stop these converts talking about what they had discovered in Jesus.
And now the gospel has spread to Samaria. We know from what we read in the gospels, that the Samaritans are seen as the lowest as the low. For example in John 4 as Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman, when he asks her for a drink of water, she says, “How can you ask me for a drink of water when Jews and Samaritans won’t have anything to do with each other?”; and in Luke 10 a Samaritan is used to illustrate the exact opposite of the supposed good people.
It’s an interesting beginning to this passage. “The disciples have heard”… so they send Peter and John. Have they sent them to check out what is happening? To make sure it’s legitimate? They don’t trust that Samaritans can have accepted God? Or am I too suspicious and cynical, and they’ve gone to rejoice?
Whichever it is, clearly God has done something in the lives of these people. Whatever their nationality, their reputation, their history, God is real in their lives. God has crossed the boundaries that people had tried to keep going – and done his thing in their lives.
I wonder if at times I’m guilty of writing people off, dismissing them, assuming God won’t work in and through them because they don’t fit my particular criteria. Fortunately God is much bigger than that – after all he chooses to work in and through me. And so the challenge for me from this is to wonder who I am missing God in and how – and do something about it.
To quote a verse from one of my favourite hymns:
He is breaking down the barriers,
He is casting up the way;
He is calling for His angels to build
up the gates of day;
But His angels here are human, not
the shining hosts above,
For the drum-beats of His army are
the heart-beats of our love.
I found this beautiful version of ‘Just as I am’ – a reminder that God loves and accepts each one of us
you call me
to build others up,
not knock them down,
or shut them out.
As you accept me,
I pray that you will give me grace
to accept others,
to see what they have to offer me,
to live in love,