Taking a Stand
The apostles and the community in Judea heard that Gentiles, too, had accepted the word of God. As a result, when Peter went up to Jerusalem, some of the Jewish believers took issue with him. “So you have been visiting the Gentiles and eating with them, have you?” they said. Peter then explained the whole affair to them step by step from the beginning… ~Acts 11:1-4
I have a friend who is the proud owner of a shirt with rips down the back which were made by the talons of a Northern Goshawk. My first encounter with that species nearly resulted in a similar wardrobe mishap. Goshawks are notorious for aggressive defense of their nests. I was aware that there was a nest near the trail I was on and was prepared to stop when I heard it calling so it would not waste precious energy flying off the nest for a non-threat. Once I past the spot where I expected the interaction, I assumed that it wasn’t going to happen. But as I turned to move down the hillside toward the turkeys I could hear gobbling, it was obviously a step too far. The stunning, silvery, male came screeching through the trees. Thankfully, it teed up on a branch not far in front of me. Captivated by this gorgeous creature, I paused to look at it in my binoculars. That turned out to be unnecessary because he was about to get much closer. He decided to let me know that I had stopped too long. He dropped from his perch and with a few flaps was right on top of me. I ducked to avoid a blow, quickly took the hint, and moved on.
While I wouldn’t want to tangle with an angry raptor, in the end I think that my size and strength would prevail, but that never deters goshawks. They don’t consider the probability of success before launching the attack, they absolutely, positively take a stand every single time. When a threat is perceived, they answer the call instinctively, without hesitation. We could learn from that example. Each of us has a calling, something unique to contribute to the common good. Imagine being so sure of your gift that you couldn’t not offer it even in the face of opposition and against all odds.
Peter not only knew he would face opposition from church leadership, the tradition he was bucking by reaching out to Gentiles was thoroughly internalized, so he was redefining his core beliefs. The sort of conviction to make that sort of stand could only come from a genuine experience of the divine. Like the nesting goshawks, Peter was more concerned about others than himself. He could have decided that this was not the hill on which he chose to die, but he knew that it was and took a stand.
Prayer: Holy Dispatcher, convince me of my calling again, that I may have the courage of my convictions to answer the call when it sounds.