Open my eyes to what it means to be faithful, Lord. Guard me against the longing just to be liked!
Read Acts 14:1-7
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).
There is none of the detail here that we were given in Pisidian Antioch. This is quite deliberate. Luke does not repeat Paul’s teaching. He has already given us a sample of how Paul spoke the good news in Jewish synagogues, so in Iconium he focuses on the consequences.
Those who look at life through rose-colored glasses often revert to the “blip theory” when faced with the ugly events of history or personal lives: the idea that things are basically OK and people are not malicious but there are occasional blips. Luke has a far earthier and more robust view of human nature, as does the rest of the Bible. We imagine too often that good news and grace will be met with approval, a welcome, or at worst indifference. Luke shows us a pattern emerging, a far more normal response to the Gospel: “But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers” (2).
As stories begin to filter disturbingly into the media of Christians in trouble one way or another for living their faith at work, we need to look closely at what Luke tells us here and see that the protection we have enjoyed in Western countries for so long may have warped our expectations. Watch how speaking boldly the message of the Lord’s grace (3) leads to division (4) and plots to murder (5). Increasingly this is becoming the backdrop to Gospel ministry for the apostles, and the miracle is that Paul and Barnabas still “continued to preach the Gospel” (7). The dismissive comments, the sneers or the patronizing remarks that cause plenty of us to tremble are pale shadows of what so many of our brothers and sisters around the world have faced, and still face today, in their discipleship.
Do I fear God more than the reactions of people? What and when do I need to speak “boldly for the Lord” (3)?
Father God, I am humbled when I learn what other believers go through for their faith. Shake me out of my complacency and embolden me.
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