Today, after the long weekend we are back to the 'bible blog', a daily reflection on the passages from the daily lectionary. Those passages can be found here: http://gamc.pcusa.org/devotion/daily/2010/9/7/
The Acts passage starts at the beginning of chapter 14, with these words: 'and the same thing occurred in Iconium'. What is that 'same thing', you might rightly ask? Well a quick glance in either direction, back into chapter 13 or further ahead into chapter 14 would answer the question easily.
'The same thing' that is occurring seems to be something of a pattern, first with Jesus and then later on with his disciples, and it goes something like this: they go to a new place, speak words of Truth, God's Kingdom and belief in Jesus Christ to all that will listen, they do so 'boldly' and many are convinced and come to believe. In doing this they also manage to upset some people that don't believe in what they are saying, these people are usually already religious and often have some religious or social power and authority already. One thing leads to another and often Jesus (there is a similar story featuring him in the gospel passage for today) or as is the case in Acts 14, this disciples just manage to make it out of the town or area unscathed.
So, as I was thinking about the Acts and the Gospel passages today and how they were clearly indicative of a much larger and fairly consistent pattern, I began to wonder what it might mean for us.
I have some ideas, but before we get there I think it is important, even though it may seem obvious to clearly lay out what this pattern that we see in the lives of Jesus and his disciples is. So, without trying to be too elaborate here is my attempt at summarizing what we see consistently happening to Jesus and his disciples throughout the New Testament:
Step 1 - Go to a new place(town, village, city, where ever). If a town or city is big enough to have a synagogue go there, otherwise go to the place where people gather, i.e. the well, the statue in the center of town, etc.
Step 2 - 'Boldly' share the good news of the gospel, specifically: Jesus is the son of God; Jesus is the means of forgiveness of our sins and restoration in relationship to God the Father; Faith in Christ, is the means of entering into this restored relationship and reaping the benefits of it, including a transformed life and entrance into the kingdom of God - an eternal kingdom that has conquered death, but that is also present in those who believe right now.
Step 3 - Watch as 'many jews and gentiles' come to belief. Welcome them into the family of God and begin the process of discipleship
Step 4 - (this step always happens at some point after step 3 has begun) Some in the community, again usually those that are already 'religious' and/or have some religious or social power and authority, become upset by the 'bold' teaching and proclamation about Jesus Christ. And decide to take action to put a stop to the teaching and preaching.
At step 4 is where the pattern breaks down. Sometimes Jesus or the disciples escape (sometimes miraculously), sometimes they are put in jail (later to escape) and sometimes they end up dying for their belief and for their insistence on sharing it with the world around them both by how they lived and by their words.
So what does this mean for us? I think the answer to that question actually begins with another question: Does the way we live out our faith ever make us or anyone around us uncomfortable? and maybe this question as well: to we live our faith 'boldly' and do we ever, ever speak about our faith with 'boldness'?
I think if we don't answer 'yes' to at least one of the above questions there really can be only one conclusion: we probably aren't living out our faith as boldly our as consistently as we should be.
Please don't misunderstand me: I think we are to live into the words of Romans 12:18: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. I think, really, we are called to do even more than that by living in such a way as to extend and reflect the love of Jesus Christ to all that we meet.
But I guess the question is, does love always mean making people happy and making sure no one gets upset or offended? I don't think so. And I am certain that when Paul wrote 'if it is possible' he didn't mean to imply that we should silence our witness to the world if it offends them or that we should only share the parts of the gospel that don't offend anyone or make us uncomfortable.
The gospel of Jesus Christ promises transformation to those that believe in it and any change, not to mention transformative change is going to at the very least ruffle a few feathers. And when people start really believing in and relying on Jesus Christ those that are in the seats of power and authority in our religious, social and even political structures will always get nervous, because the change and transformation that Jesus brings and promises turns our lives and our world upside down: the first shall be last, and the last shall be first, if any among you wishes to be great, become like a servant, etc. . . . .
The gospel of Jesus Christ can only be shared when shared in love and peace, but if it is really being lived out, shared and boldly proclaimed . . . it will make people uncomfortable or worse.
Are you ready to be uncomfortable?
I think you should have a reaction button marked scary but true...I agree that it's not always enough to "act out" our faith but we need to accompany it with words...other wise we could be just another humanitarianReplyDelete