1999-01-21 - Be Guilty
Acts 24:14-15 "But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets; 15 having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. (NAS)
The Apostle Paul had been taken into custody, as much for his own protection as anything. He was accused of starting a riot in Jerusalem. So hostile toward Paul was 80-year old Ananias, that he traveled the 60 miles to Caesarea to witness against him. Paul stood before Felix the Governor and refuted the charges made against him. In the process, this gnarled man once again turned his defense into an opportunity to speak for his Lord.
It is interesting to note that the Pharisees and Sadducees came together against Paul. Under typical circumstances, they could hardly stand each other's company. The Sadducees only accepted the first five books of the Torah written by Moses. Since these books do not mention angels or spirit beings other than God, they did not accept them. The Pharisees accepted the whole Torah - our Old Testament - and therefore accepted the resurrection, angels, etc. Their divisions could be strong. But here, against Paul, they were unified. Yet, there were no other Christians seen here with Paul.
John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (NAS)
This is similar to Christianity and the world today. Jesus warned us that this would be so at the Last Supper. We are to be salt and light to a world that hates us. The saddest part of that is that we hold the peace and security that they long for and they refuse to hear us. Paul bore in his body permanent injuries from stonings and beatings he had been given for his faith in the risen Christ. He was once left for dead, and I believe he was dead. These people knew what stoning was all about. But God restored Paul to go back and finish the work he was called to do. The apostle still readily admits his 'guilt' of being associated with and boldly promoting The Way.
Gal 6:17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. (NAS)
Today Christianity is nearly a dirty word. It is associated with narrow-minded, rigid thinking, uncompassionate, uneducated stereotypes. But be willing to be guilty like Paul. Live out the joy of your faith in front of the world. Show them the love and peace they are searching for in all the wrong places. Don't beat them with the Bible. Be a friend to them, living out the compassion that Jesus showed each one of us to them. There will be open doors to speak with them. But actions will speak louder than words, building credence for those times when questions come. Just as Paul was given an opportunity to speak with Felix's wife of his faith in Jesus at her request, those times will come for you and me.
"Tell of Jesus always. If necessary, use words." - St Francis of Assisi
Dear Lord, give us hearts filled with compassion for this world that blindly wanders looking for what we would give them from You. Make us worthy messengers, goodwill Ambassadors for Your kingdom in order to bring these people to know Your grace, mercy and compassion for them. Amen.