“The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!’”Acts 22:22
Having been falsely accused of defiling God’s holy temple, the Apostle Paul pleaded with a mob of his fellow Jews. Explaining that he was in fact a law-abiding Pharisee, their indignation began to cool. That is, up until the point when he added that the Lord had sent him to preach saving grace to the Gentiles!
In first-century Israel, non-Jewish people— Gentiles and Samaritans—were generally considered “unclean dogs” bound for hell. Although their full inclusion among God’s people had been foretold since Abraham’s day (Genesis 12:1-3), the Judean church wrestled with accepting “outsiders” even 20 years after Pentecost. (See, for example, Acts chapters 10, 11, and 15.)
Even Israelites could be considered “unclean” if they were notoriously immoral. Here in prison I am all too aware of how I’ve lived as an “unclean dog” and “outsider.” But even I, even my prison mates, even you whose sin has chased hard after you—we are the recipients of Jesus’ scandalous grace which fully forgives and embraces the most outcast of sinners.
“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)