While reading through the first three chapters of the Book of Acts I can see something amazing. The disciples plead with the people in Jerusalem to follow the risen Savior and accept forgiveness for their sins. What I do not see is the disciples pleading with others to change their behavior because it offends them. No one screams “stop behaving like Romans it is not biblical”. No, they plead for the many established cultures that had gathered around them to come into the new culture of salvation offered by Jesus and his resurrection.
I don’t see a bloc of new Christians boycotting the Jewish temple (in fact, they continuing going there seeking new converts). I do see Peter saying “turn to God and be saved so that your sins will be wiped away”. Can we see the difference? We turn to God so that our sins can be wiped away, not the other way around.
Social media and the 24/7 news cycle is filled with our outrage about what the world is up to. We rage against all the things and people we see that might be outside of what we perceive as God’s will. “That’s a sin! You’re a sinner! Change your evil ways!” We define the earths population by their sin rather than as image bearers of God living in a fallen world.
Peter and the apostles could see the difference. They beg for the lost to be found, to be rescued. “Come as you are and receive this gift”.
We can learn a lot from the early church and its evangelism. At its core was a message of hope, not condemnation. Sure, we see sin for what it is, but at the same time we preach a message to people, living and breathing beings, that were created by our God. We say “come, be forgiven, and your heart will change”, not “change your heart so that you can be forgiven”. It is such a small change in words and perspective, but I believe it means the difference between a forever life and a forever death.