. . . . Number counting groups might like the first sign of life in Peter [when he’s introduced to Jesus], confession-oriented theologians hear “I am a sinner” and smile ever so slightly, while creedal Christians stand up at Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Surely the charismatics finally find a brother when Peter is flooded from above with the Holy Spirit’s fire, and the socially active churches are unenthusiastically satisfied when Peter finally embraces the multicultural acceptance of Gentiles! Only utopians wait until the end of someon’s life to make a ruling. But this is humor—perhaps.Note: [brackets] are mine; italics/emphasis is McKnight's; the text [minus the brackets] is a direct quote taken from Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (Parcaclete Press, Brewster MA, 2004). Also, visit the Jesus Creed blog.
No one doubts that Peter is converted, but we may not be sure when the “moment” occurs, when he gets his birth certificate. And therein lies the mystery of conversion. Conversion is more than just an event; it is a process. Like wisdom, it takes a lifetime. Conversion is a lifelong series of gentle (or noisy) nods of the soul. The question of when someone is converted is much less important than that they are converting.
Some Christians are like the apostle Paul and know the date and time of their conversion. They tell a story of a “big moment” . . . . For most Christians, conversion is more like the evening soft-shoe dance of summer shadows across the lawn. It’s hard to see, but the shadow is moving, and at some point we see that it has, in fact, covered the lawn. Conversion, for these, is a series of gentle nods of the soul—from childhood through adulthood. There is no reason to think Paul’s is the definitive model.
Peter’s story is not Paul’s, and Peter is as welcome to the table . . . as anyone.
(Image: Los Cardinalos - GT at flickr.com)