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How to Astonish a Society That’s Seen It All

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When was the last time you astonished someone with your courage? Or astonished anyone with anything, for that matter? When was the last time you let yourself be astonished by someone else?
People these days can be tough to impress, much less astonish. We like to think of ourselves as nearly unflappable. It’s fashionable to take everything in stride with a world-weary sense of “been there, done that” detachment.

We look down on those who are too easily impressed, thinking that they are naïve or “wet behind the ears.” Our knowing looks through wizened eyes say, “I remember being that way. You’ll grow out of it soon enough.”

Conversely, we’ve been taught to admire an even-keeled stoicism, seeing this as a sign of being mature and established.

We would do better, though, to recover a healthy sense of awe and wonder. In fact, the Christian life demands both a willingness to be astonished at Christ’s presence in our lives and a willingness to surprise others with our allegiance to God.

In Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John went out to tell people about Jesus and happened upon a man who couldn’t walk.

He asked Peter for money, and Peter said he didn’t have any. But, he said, I do have Christ, and Christ can make you walk again.

So Peter helped the man to his feet, and the man got up and walked. Then, the Bible tells us, he followed Peter and John into the temple running and jumping and praising God.

If we stop right there, we have a run-of-the-mill healing story that demonstrates the power of Jesus in much the same way many other healing stories do. But the leaders of the Jerusalem Temple didn’t like the fact that Peter and John were demonstrating such power in the name of Jesus.

So, they threw Peter and John in jail and put them on trial to ask them by whose authority they were healing and teaching. The apostles answered that they were teaching and healing in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Even under pressure from the leaders of the temple to change their story, they maintained their allegiance to Jesus, and the Bible says that the courage they exhibited in sticking to their story “astonished” all those who were listening.

In other words, when the crowds realized that these were just ordinary people without any special training except that they had been with Jesus, they were amazed. 

What stands out to me in this story is that the questioners took it in stride that a lame beggar had been healed. They weren’t amazed that a man who couldn’t walk was now jumping around in the Temple.

Rather, they were astonished that two normal guys would display such courage in their allegiance to Jesus.

Perhaps they’d experienced the unexplainable before. In any case, they were a tough crowd to impress. But they’d never seen anything like this: Two ordinary people standing up to those in power, willing to keep telling inconvenient truths and whose courage caused people to “take note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Impressing other people with the gospel doesn’t require miraculous signs, but it does require ordinary people to display uncommon courage – the courage to display our allegiance to God even when it’s inconvenient and to be unashamedly impressed by Christ in an unflappable, even-keeled world.

It might just require (even though I know it’s out of fashion) that we set out to tell other people about Jesus every once in a while as Peter and John did.

Speaking of things that may or may not be in fashion today, if you’re looking for a personal mantra or life purpose statement, try this one on for size: “Live your life in such a way that others will take note that you have been with Jesus.”

If you live that way, I promise you, you’ll astonish nearly everyone you meet.

Matt Sapp is the minister of congregational life at Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. A version of this column first appeared on Wieuca Road’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @MattPSapp.