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With reference to anyone of the key people in Acts, explore the challenge of prejudice, sectarianism or racism to the modern world.

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The Acts of the Apostles is the geographical and political story of the development of the Christian Church under the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Although many of us may think that the issues of sectarianism are new, the Acts of the Apostles shows clearly religious intolerance over two thousand years ago. In this respect, it is comparable and informative for moral life in the twenty-first century. One of the most influential characters in Acts, who is closely linked to the issues of sectarianism, is Peter. However, before I look at his role, the word sectarianism has been defined by Joseph Liechty and Cecelia Clegg as, 'a system of attitudes, actions, beliefs and structures ... which arises as a distorted expression of positive, human needs especially for belonging, identity and the free expression of difference ... and is expressed in destructive patterns of relating', The task of saying what sectarianism is, becomes complex because the system of sectarianism is itself one of extraordinary complexity. Sectarianism is about what goes on in people's hearts and minds, and it is about people's attitudes to one another, about what they do and say and the things they leave undone or unsaid. In order to see sectarianism, this question has to be asked, 'Do I recognise these dynamics in any form in my own life'. It is quite obvious that a better understanding has indeed facilitated movement. ...read more.


apart.' The Jews considered the Gentiles as unclean, and were often referred to as dogs. This does not correspond with Jesus' gave the Great Commission in Acts 1v8: 'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' This statement motivated Acts, gave it direction, energy, purpose, message and protection. This was the barrier that had to be overcome before Gentiles could be admitted into the Christian community; In fact that is what we all have to do today, look at what we believe and to overcome the sectarianism barrier dividing us from other people. Any Gentile who wished to become a Christian had to first be circumcised as a Jew (a proselyte). This was to end with Cornelius, as Peter's own personal sectarianism views were knocked down, Thus overcoming this major sectarianism, this again would help us to see how Peter challenged his sectarian views and would give us ideas on how to overcome ours. Peter received a vision from God which offended Peter's inherent belief that unclean animals should not be eaten by law-abiding Jews. However, when he questions this instruction, God rebukes him, 'Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.' However it is important that we realise that Peter could not free himself from all his sectarianism views and move beyond them by his own power; he needed the support and spiritual guidance of the Lord. ...read more.


Some of us might be better at hiding our views, but inside every person there are some issues of sectarianism. However, it is how the Church reacted to their own discrimination that is important; they could have accepted their own sectarian views and incorporated them into their theology. Instead, they worked to overcome sectarianism, even when it involved admitting they had been wrong. This is something that should be taken out of Acts and used by us today in the modern world. Luke shows remarkable transformation that the Holy Spirit produced in Peter, who went from denying Jesus 3 times to boldly denying the Jewish Leaders and telling them to their faces that he would continue to preach about Jesus. In Acts 6, the early Church, under Peter's command, chooses seven men to help ease the tensions between Hebrews and Hellenists. The Samaritans are accepted into the Church (whatever Peter's own view had been) and Paul's rebuke of Peter led him to return to the Council of Jerusalem to set down the Church's view. We cannot hope to fully rid ourselves of sectarianism, but we can continually work at overcoming it. And this reveals one of the most important things about sectarianism - as Cecilia Clegg and Joseph Liechty wrote in heir book: "We are all recovering sectarians." An example of sectarianism in our world today. With reference to anyone of the key people in Acts, explore the challenge of prejudice, sectarianism or racism to the modern world. ...read more.

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