The flinch test

Acts 10:44-48
In his book, The Bad Habits of Jesus, Leonard Sweet includes a brief word about Jonathan Swift. Swift, you may recall, is the author of Gulliver’s Travels. Upon hiring a new servant, Mr. Swift informed them of a particular responsibility. They were to clean other servants’ shoes. If they flinched, they were not hired.

Sweet asks us the question, “Do you flinch when washing the feet of bad or strange people?”

Many of us in the church have done a lot of flinching, haven’t we? I suppose there are various reasons for soul flinching. But don’t most of them have their roots in pride? Pride keeps us from humbling ourselves. Pride maintains our false sense of superiority over others. Pride eats away at compassion and mercy. Pride makes us flinch at the thought of reaching out to certain people.

All that to say, mind your prideful inclinations.

The thought that God would include the Gentiles in salvation history made a lot of people flinch. These are the stories we read about in the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. I’m sure there were some whose rejection connected to a firm belief based on their understanding of scripture. I can’t help but wonder, though, how many more flinched at God’s idea because of pride. If God would include anyone, does that mean we lose our standing?

Of course, we know the answer to that.

Peter was one that struggled with this, supposed, new idea. In Acts 10, we read of a dramatic vision that challenged his flinch. As a result, he came to understand that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all” (Acts 10:35-36).

There’s the important word, all.

God transformed Peter’s flinch. The apostle then witnessed the Holy Spirit fall upon Cornelius and his family and friends.

Now, let’s think both as individual believers and as members of the body of Christ. Our unwillingness to reach out to certain people hinders how others can know the Lord. That’s important to remember. If we won’t learn to flinch less, we’ll end up reaching out less. We’ll put barriers around our ministry that ensure we reach out to the right kind of people. Let’s recognize that at that point, it is our ministry. God’s ministry doesn’t work like that.

But let’s also consider what we miss. Our unchecked flinches keep us from participating and witnessing the glory of God. We keep ourselves from seeing the transformation God promises. The more we flinch, the more self-centered we remain. Do you fail the flinch test?

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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