Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Triune God. May Your grace, peace, and love be with me throughout today.
Read ACTS 14:8-20
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“It is amazing how fickle crowds can be. Like Jesus before him, Paul remained unmoved. His steadfastness of character was upset neither by flattery nor by opposition” (John R. W. Stott, 1921-2011).
I’m writing this at the time of year for the major international film awards. Our TV screens are full of glamorously dressed “beautiful people” receiving the praise and adulation of others for their performances. In turn, those awards affect the popularity of the films concerned and increase box-office receipts. Popularity has its rewards, so why are Paul and Barnabas so quick to reject it in this story? Wouldn’t they have had even more influence over the people of Lystra if they’d gone along with the public view?
The place was in uproar, with the crowd shouting excitedly in their own language, the priest bringing bulls to sacrifice to them, and the apostles horrified when they realized what was going on! The pagan crowd’s superstitious behavior had its roots in local legend in which Zeus and Hermes had visited the area disguised as humans, which resulted in their being worshiped as local patron deities. Lystra itself was an insignificant village which had been made into a Roman colony in 6 BC as part of the defense against local warlike tribes. There appeared to be no synagogue, and there is no mention of local Jews, though eventually Jews from Antioch and Iconium turn up to make trouble.
The apostles’ response is interesting in how immediate and definite it is. From this it was obvious that they held their influence and power lightly. Popularity and the praise of others can be quite seductive, and they could easily have been tempted to enjoy it for a time while refusing the actual sacrifices. However, being in touch with their humanity and being grounded in a clear sense of calling as bringers of God’s message (15) enabled them to handle this tricky situation, and adapt their message to their audience.
Consider how much being popular with others matters to you. To what extent are your decisions made on the basis of being liked (a particular pressure for leaders)? Be honest!
Lord, sometimes I crumble before the pressure of resistance and popularity. Keep me grounded in You so I can stand firm and faithful for You.
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