Finding God in the Otherness

A bit of context: This is where Phillip – preaching in Samaria – there’s been signs and wonders and healing, spirits cast out.

Especially for people like many of us – grow up in the Pentecostal tradition. – We think this is the ultimate. The highest level of our existence.

But turns out – Not God’s ultimate plan for Phillip. Or for any of us to camp out in the revival atmosphere. But instead God sends him out.

10 Verses

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26)

So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, (Acts 8:27)

and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. (Acts 8:28)

The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (Acts 8:29)

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. (Acts 8:30)

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:31)

This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: (Acts 8:32)

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. (Acts 8:33)

Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” (Acts 8:34)

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. (35)

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)


And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8:38)

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39)

Title: Finding God in the Otherness


  • Surprise Us
  • Lower our defenses
  • Our life can be so tidy – that it’s hard for you to get in.

(Apostle Phillip) meets (Ethiopian Eunuch)

Jewish Law – Someone like this Ethiopian eunuch – considered so deeply unclean.

I don’t want to be graphic. – The practice was: If someone was going to work for a queen, the requirement was that the man would be castrated, so no chance of him sleeping with the queen, or raping the queen, or anything like that.

That means that his reproductive organs would be removed.

Joke: So, if you think you gave up a lot for your job…

People would willingly do this because of the power that the job would give them. So for one thing – It kinda makes you a sell out to your tribe. Because you’re saying you’re always going to work for these pegan rulers.

If you were a jew – you’d consider someone like this, unclean according to the purity codes in the bible.

“If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.“ (Deuteronomy 23:1)

No eunuch is to enter the congregation of GOD. (Deuteronomy 23:1)

Deuteronomy is incredibly clear that Eunuch’s are not allowed in the house of God.

Here’s what’s interesting about scripture: Scripture has a dialog with itself.

That’s why ‘Proof Texting’ is a bad idea. Proof texting is where you have an opinion and then go to the bible for scriptures that back up your point.

I don’t know if you know this, but you can prove always anything by stacking up bible verses. The bible is having a dialog with itself. So sometimes it’s not as plain as ‘This is what I think and I’ve got 5 verses to prove it.’

Ex: Isaiah 56 – still OT – Isaiah gives us a very different vision of INCLUSION for Eunuchs.

Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” (Isaiah 56:3)

For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— (Isaiah 56:4)

to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever. (Isaiah 56:5)

So not only – place for Eunuch – 2nd class citizen.

They will be so cared for by us that they will have a legacy better than sons and daughters.

And I love that the law it specifically says he wants them to follow is this: keep my sabbath. It’s talking about rest. Make sure the Eunuch’s participate in my rest. – Beautiful.

All here in the OT – amazing.

This whole storyline culminates in Acts 8 – Where Phillip who is a devout Jew – is called OUT of the revival, the glamor. – Called OUT to sit side by side (note that) with a Eunuch.

When I’ve read this text in the past. Passed over it. I just thought, man, Phillip, what a great man. Such a gift to this worldly man.

Now I understand: Not only did the Eunuch need Phillip to encounter God, Phillip encountered God in a way that would not have been possible without the Eunuch.

Phillip is going to see things and experience things in a new way, because he’s sitting next to this Eunuch.

DIFFERENT than Phillip.

Phillip encounters God through this man who in every way imaginable is DIFFERENT than Phillip.

  • Ethiopian – Dark Skin
  • Different Culture / Worldview
  • Unclean

But : the way God reveals himself most powerfully is often times through the gift of someone else’s otherness.

God reveals himself through the gift of the other. Sitting side by side next to someone with a different:

Race / Perspective / World View

Provides for us the ‘DISRUPTION’ that allows us to hear God.

It’s amazing how easy it is for us (especially those of us who are a product of the church in america) to become so ‘insulated’ with people who think like we do, dress like we do, talk like we do, listen to the same music, like the same things, have the same politics.

It’s so easy to insulate ourselves so there’s no possibility that God could ever surprise us.

B/C there is no otherness.

We’re like the jews in Phillips time: We already know the law. We know the scripture. We can quote it back. “Eunuchs cannot enter the congregation of God.”

  • We’ve already got everything figured out.
  • God figured out.
  • Society
  • Culture

For the jews, they had already decided that the samaritans, man they’re the wicked people. God is on our side and not theirs. But then Jesus comes and messes everything up b/c he’s constantly making the samaritans the heros in his parables.

Sports analogy My dad – MLB fan. He’s got this MLB app on his iPad. And so you click whatever game you want, and then you get to listen to the radio for the play by play. And you can choose which radio station you want to listen to. So for example if the St Louise cardinals are playing the Texas Rangers, you could either listen to the radio station in St. Louise or the radio station in Texas. If you listen to the radio station in St Louise, it’s almost like the announcers are cheering for the home team. Well what if you like both teams or neither? I don’t want someone to cheer on a certain team, I just want someone to announce the dang game! Well, you’re outta luck man.

This is society right now. – Not just with sports but with all news.


We all get to pick our own news. – Awesome?! If I were to take a consensus, there would not be anywhere close to agreement on who’s a trustworthy news source. It wouldn’t happen.

Everyone has a different narrative as to what kind of news is right.

We live in a wonderful world, where we get to decide what we think about how the world works, and who God is. And if we choose, we never have to encounter a different perspective.

If we choose, we can set up our world so that the only people we seriously listen to are people that we’ve previously decided are right.


And if you put that together with a protestant church culture where there are, get this, over 44,000 different Christian denominations in the world.

We don’t even think this is weird anymore.

How do you get to 44,000 denominations? Awful lot of church splits! Every few minutes, someone decided that their church went too conservative, liberal, too charismatic, the musics too loud, too soft, wrong about baptism, or abortion or something. – So they go down the street to make it right.

Go down street – right.

Statistics tell us that the Number 1 reason people leave a church is because they don’t like something that’s said in the sermon.

So – put – together:

We get to pick our sports commentary, news, church, pastor – so we walk around life already knowing all the answers so if someone every challenges our perspective, I’m outta there!

If you don’t expect to ever get challenged at church, then why come at all?

Just sit at home, in your underwear, bible study.

My concern

My concern with all of this is we serve a God who moves through disruption. Surprise. – One of the ways he does that is by using the ‘otherness’ of somebody else.

When you order your world in a way that ensures there will never be a disruption, you eliminate the possibility that God might surprise you.

Paul 1 Corinthians 13: “We see in part. – Glass dimly lit.”

I believe in the authority of scripture. But I also believe that my understanding of them is partial at best. There’s all sorts of things that I’m wrong about and I don’t know that I’m wrong about them yet. And I hope we’d all have the courage to admit that.

Have you changed?

That’s really what it means to have a life with God.


“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19)

For me: Russia For me, one of the most powerful experiences I ever had in bible college was when we spent 3 weeks in Russia. It’s so healing to the heart to be with people are different than you. Picture me, a 20 year old middle class white kid, knew nothing of the world.

Realized : how insulated I had become in bible college.

You don’t become an expert on the suffering of the world by going on a 3 week mission trip. You still know nothing. But I know that when I encounter ‘otherness’, I encounter God.

Nowhere is this more important than for people who are highly involved in the church.

Pastors hang out with other pastors.

If we insulate ourselves in a bubble where we guarantee that we’ll only encounter people who agree with us, we create a world where God is no longer able to surprise.

Everybody loves to have people who agree with them. It feels good. But if we just great this bubble, the moment we move into that, we move into a place where there’s no space for the spirit to move.

I’m about done.

I look at the news. – Tragedies

Can’t – single week – tragedy

As I was preparing for this message, thinking about it. – When things crazy happen, I think I just end up getting quiet. B/C I don’t know the right things to say. I end up feelings pretty dumb.

Amazing: We can’t get through a single week w/o somebody killing somebody who’s different from them. I don’t claim to have any idea how that works or how to fix it.

So the little that I’ll say is that I think this is the end result of a society where we have no kinship, no sense of responsibility for people who are different from us. A different culture, from a different part of town, whatever.

There’s no sense of how the gospel calls us to carry our brothers and sisters.

This is what that kind of world looks like.


And then you go on Facebook, and what you see there is just an extension of the same thing.

Everyone is just shouting out their opinion, their belief system, and we’re just so bad at getting in the chariot, side by side, and listen to what God is doing in someone who might be very ‘other’ than us.

The only way for that to happen is if we stop being afraid. Now more than ever, we live in a society so ruled by fear. Afraid of the challenge that might come when we engage someone different than us.

I just feel that we, more than anyone, have nothing to fear for somebody else’s otherness.

Some of you might be thinking “Well I hope he’s not talking about so and so.” You’re already doing that. And that’s the problem. That’s why God can’t move in us in surprising ways. Where there is no disruption, there is no dependency on the spirit.

Few Years – Bored – Preaching. And in my own life, a few years ago, I just become so bored to tears with my own preaching. Saying generic stuff to people that I know all already agree with me. I just want us to be people who are open to God moving in surprising ways.