When Peter saw he had a congregation, he addressed the people:
"Oh, Israelites, why does this take you by such complete surprise, and why stare at us as if our power or piety made him walk? The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his Son Jesus. The very One that Pilate called innocent, you repudiated. You repudiated the Holy One, the Just One, and asked for a murderer in his place. You no sooner killed the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead—and we're the witnesses. Faith in Jesus' name put this man, whose condition you know so well, on his feet—yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes.
"And now, friends, I know you had no idea what you were doing when you killed Jesus, and neither did your leaders. But God, who through the preaching of all the prophets had said all along that his Messiah would be killed, knew exactly what you were doing and used it to fulfill his plans.
"Now it's time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you, and send you the Messiah he prepared for you, namely, Jesus. For the time being he must remain out of sight in heaven until everything is restored to order again just the way God, through the preaching of his holy prophets of old, said it would be. Moses, for instance, said, 'Your God will raise up for you a prophet just like me from your family. Listen to every word he speaks to you. Every last living soul who refuses to listen to that prophet will be wiped out from the people.'
"All the prophets from Samuel on down said the same thing, said most emphatically that these days would come. These prophets, along with the covenant God made with your ancestors, are your family tree. God's covenant-word to Abraham provides the text: 'By your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.' But you are first in line: God, having raised up his Son, sent him to bless you as you turn, one by one, from your evil ways."
If someone were to tell you, “Turn to face God,” what do you think they would mean?
My natural instinct says that they are talking about judgment. Maybe I’m crazy. But, if you were to walk up to me and declare, “Turn to face God,” I would think you believe me to have done something bad or wrong. I would think you were calling me out on the carpet. Be honest, isn’t that how you would feel too?
Why? Why do we feel that way? I think it’s because in our culture we understand religious people to be judgemental and mean. We don’t think about religious people as being gracious, merciful, loving, and kind. There’s ample proof on social media and other venues of the mean-spiritedness of the religious. The clips of preachers on YouTube filled with “fire and brimstone” sermons don’t help either.
But is that supposed to be the way?
According to Peter it’s not. According to Peter when you turn to face God you do so to experience grace, forgiveness, blessing, and refreshment.
Peter would know better than anyone wouldn’t he? Let’s remember Peter’s story he was in Jesus’ inner circle. Yet, he denied Jesus three times on the night of his death. Then, after the resurrection Jesus sat with Peter around the camp fire and not only forgave him but instructed him to feed his brothers and sisters. He wanted Peter to teach everyone else this depth of love and forgiveness. Peter’s soul must have been refreshed in that moment in a way inexpressible by words. That moment on the beach with Jesus probably shaped the way that Peter understood everything else from that moment on. He was not perfect and continued to grow and change.
“Turn to face God!” was not a statement of judgment. It was a call to…
If the phrase “turn to face God” has lost this meaning it’s because of the Bible, it’s because of me. If the people in my life hear that phrase and think of judgement then I’m the one responsible for changing the meaning by the way that I have lived Christ before them.
If you’re one of the people for whom I have changed the meaning of that phrase for, please forgive me. When any of us turn to face God we are turning not to judgement but to grace, forgiveness, mercy, blessing, and refreshment.