God announced something new in the last book of the Bible, the book of John’s Revelation. God spoke to John in a vision during a time of intense Christian persecution. In the vision John saw a new heaven and a new earth and heard the voice of God saying, “I am making all things new.” John had every reason to be anxious and fearful. We would understand him if he dreamed about a restoration of the glorious past. When we are fearful, we find it easy to want to return to the “good old days,” whenever they might have been. But the vision God gave John in order to grant him new courage and hope was that God will make all things new.
In other times we would rather not hear about being made new. Those are the days we wish God would just get off our case and let us be. On those days we are locked into ourselves and contemptuous of any who would want to change us. But, ready or not, willing to be changed or not willing to be changed, here comes an announcement of God’s desire that we be changed.
There was a time when God changed the menu and told the faithful they could eat something new. Jesus and his disciples had inherited centuries-old dietary laws from their spiritual ancestors. These laws told them what they could eat and what they couldn’t eat. Obedience to these kosher laws gave them a sense of set-apartness from the rest of the world and reminded them they were God’s chosen ones. Jesus’ earliest followers affirmed their plans to continue with this prescribed way of eating until Peter, one of their leaders, heard the summons to change in a dream.
The story was told in Acts 10-11, and this was no ordinary dream. It was a life-changer. God met Peter in a dream and announced non-kosher food was now okay. Nearly every contemporary effort to describe this dream understates the true magnitude of this change. Why did God want Peter to set aside his kosher diet? The story of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection was in the possession of only those who ate kosher food, and this was not acceptable to God. There were others in the world, those of other races, other religions, those who ate other food who needed to hear the story of Jesus, and for that reason God told Peter and the others to set aside their dietary practices to meet and eat with the Gentiles, the non-kosher eaters.
Centuries of kosher eating disappeared because of Peter’s dream, and all Peter could say in response to his friends’ questions was, “Who was I that I could hinder God?” God told him to change not only his menu but also his outlook on those who were different. We are to embrace others—no matter their race, creed, political persuasion, economic or educational level. That was a new thought, a new paradigm in the first century. It is somewhat strange to say that, for the most part, it is still received as new news.
Imagine God making all things new. Imagine ourselves encouraged by such a scene where we welcome newness as God’s gift. Imagine Jesus’ followers embracing a new vision of what God is doing in today’s world.
This vision was fully fleshed out in Jesus’ words in the Upper Room: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34). It’s not that new because all the descendants of Abraham and Sarah knew the command from Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). Still, Jesus goes further elsewhere to command us to love even our enemies. You sense something groundbreaking and revolutionary is taking place.
Maybe Jesus’ commandment to love was new in that he added his own twist: “Just as I have loved you.” He had given us an example. He had embodied the words previously chiseled on a tablet. He showed us how to love. In Christ’s selfless and sacrificial love, there is no room for prejudice, bigotry, hatred, feelings of superiority, or notions of privilege. Again, it is a commandment not a suggestion.
So, step out of your skepticism, your cynicism. Break new ground, and trust! Trust that God’s way of grace, love, and forgiveness ultimately triumphs over hatred, greed, and competition.
Leave behind your despair and despondency over the ways of the world. Stop with all your gloom and doom. Remember the power of hope. Repent, change, be made new. The prophets of old told individuals and nations to acknowledge their wrongdoing and their need to turn their lives around. That message will never be out of date. It’s an old cry that needs to be heard in this new day. Don’t get so stuck in your way of doing things, your perception of the world, and your views about others that you are immune to God’s renewing power.
God is in the business of making all things new, even now. It is my belief that when we learn to love as Jesus loved, it will be a whole new day!