Mistakes, and What to Do About Them
Now a certain main named Simon had previously practiced magic. After being baptized, he offered [the disciples] money, saying, “Give me also this power.” But Peter said to him, “Repent therefore of this wickedness!” – Excerpts of Acts 8:9-22 (NRSV)
Poor Simon. Already a spiritual adept before he converts, he longs for the abilities the disciples are showing off (who wouldn’t?), so he does the only thing he can think of to get it: he offers to pay. Which, fair enough, that’s how you get most things in this world. But instead of explaining why that’s not how we do things around here, Peter smacks him with an insult-laden lecture.
The Bible ends its story there, but everybody and their uncle later comes up with a nasty rumor about Simon Magus. He was destroyed by the disciples in a spectacular magic-off. He founded a hundred different heresies. They named a special sin after him.
Who knows what Simon actually did. But if I joined a church and got treated the way Peter treated Simon for making one little mistake, I’d start a heresy or two, too.
Someone’s going to join your church soon, having had a whole life before coming to you. They might notice that you all have benefits the newbie longs for—peace, maybe, or companionship, or leadership, or respect, or faith, or inclusion. They might decide they’d very much like some of that, and the way they go about trying to get it may not be the done thing.
And you, church normie? What are you going to do then?
When I meet the next Simon, God, let it be the story not of how they learned to be a better convert, but of how I learned to be a better welcomer. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.