What an Odd Bunch; Acts 16:13-40

Last Sunday I preached on Rahab. It struck me that God chooses people to have in his familiy that I probably wouldn't. Which, frankly, is is just tough for me. I had better get around to accepting whoever God wants, rather than the extremely limited group of people with whom I feel comfortable. I wouldn't have chosen a Canaanite pagan prostitute. God thought that it was exactly the kind of person who's salvation would demonstrate just how great his grace is. Did she make a comfortable addition to the people of Israel? Not on your life. But God included her in the lineage of King David, and subsequently the Lord Jesus. I need to raise my sights.

The same is true in Acts 16 in the church in Philippi. The conversions we hear about are of Lydia, a well-to-do business woman, a gaoler, and probably a demon-possessed slave girl. There is no place on earth you would expect to find these three people fellowshipping other than in a church and no cause about which you would expect them to be united other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe Luke is giving another one of his worked examples, this time of a normal Gentile church, with people getting converted different ways, from different backgrounds and life experience, all being united in Christ and around Christ.

Lydia was a worshipper of God. She believed and acted like a Jew though she hadn't become one. The slave girl was the from the exact opposite side of the tracks socially and spiritually: heavily, visibly under the influence of an evil Spirit and owned by people who made good money from it. And I guess the gaoler was a pretty blue-collar, rough and ready, down to earth, regular man. 

Lydia got saved by God opening her heart to receive the message. We don't know about the slave girl, but her deliverance from the evil spirit would seem to be a significant step. The gaoler is forced to confront the things of God and listen to the message of God through a combination of the earthquake and the apostolic integrity that meant they didn't run off. The sense of the message coming with spiritual power is striking, but by no means uniform in how or when it happens.

An odd bunch. By the time Paul writes Philippians a decade later, they are a beacon church, full of grace, dramatically used to bring glory to God. But there were bust ups and fallings out as well. It sounds to me like a normal church. When we come together with the odd bunch God has put us with, when we try to work it out with people who are really not like me and with whom I wouldn't get together in any other circumstance, let's be very quick to remember that God is the one who decides who he wants in his family. And if God wants them, I had better like it.