Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Disturbing Christian (Acts 21)

I’m going to be at Jr. high camp all next week. I’m going to be teaching a lesson on/about prayer (so I could use your prayers, also pray the junior high will learn something). So, this post will have to suffice for the next 2 weeks. That’s also why it’s a little long. Hope you enjoy and feel compelled to leave a comment.

Things are shaken up in Acts 21. Luke’s primary focus from here on will be on Paul and his troubling times (not that he hasn’t had any already), which begin in Jerusalem. Like Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8, the disciples will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (a process started in Acts and still continuing today). In retrospect, Paul stirred up a lot of division, especially in the Jewish community. His message about Jesus Christ brought both joy and anger.

Maybe I’m wrong to label Paul as a “disturbing Christian”, but looking over his life one cannot help but notice all the turmoil surrounding him. The man caused five riots in five different cities (Acts 14:19, 16:22, 17:5, 19:29, 21:30). Which brings up a lot of questions for us today. Jesus promoted a peaceful message, so why all the uproar and rage when we preach Him?

In the later part of Acts 21 a scuffle breaks out. Luke writes in verses 27-28,

“When the seven day were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘“Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.”’

This was such a big deal that it caught the attention of the commander of the Roman troops (v.31). The commander and his soldiers were there to keep peace and order in Jerusalem. They would be in big trouble with the Roman Empire if peace and quiet weren’t kept. So, they have their hands full when Paul arrives and causes a ruckus. The enraged crowd in Jerusalem became so rowdy that they were about to kill Paul if it weren’t for the Roman soldiers breaking in (v. 31-32). So, Paul incites the Jews and the Romans (I’m sure they were frustrated too). Seems kind of disturbing for a man of God to be causing so much upheaval. Don’t you think so?

When you look back over Paul’s life from this point you see a man intent on preaching the Good News of God. He was commissioned by God to preach to the Gentiles, their kings, and the people of Israel (Acts 9:15-16). He was following God’s orders and passionate about it. He was also burdened for his own people (Jews), you can tell this by how he continually preaches/teaches in the synagogues of each city he visits. Which brings me back to this question: Why was he such a disturbance to so many in the world around him? He was preaching a message of forgiveness, hope, and charity. He wasn’t out to kill or start riots.

Maybe Jesus can help us see why Paul was such a “disturbing Christian”. Jesus spoke very clearly about a Christian’s relationship to the world and His kingdom’s relationship to the world. In John 17:6-19 He prays for His disciples and in John 18:36 He describes where His kingdom is from.

In verse 16 He says,
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

In verse 36 He says,
My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.

A good reminder of why Christians are sometimes a disturbance. We’re from another world (we’re born from “above”). We don’t belong here and the people who become angry with the Gospel of Jesus Christ are the ones who have made this world their kingdom. In doing so, they don’t recognize our King (Jesus), but theirs (Satan). Is that fair to say? In a way, we who are believers are like aliens from a strange planet visiting earth (bad example, I know). This helps shed some light on why Paul was such a disturbance to those around him. He was not of this world, but another. He preached a kingdom not of this world, but another. He called for a kingdom change amongst people (from Satan’s to God’s); change (big or small) is hard and unsettling when we meet it. It can be especially hard to those who have settled in and are living in this world. However, the Truth must be proclaimed.

Even though we are from another world, Jesus reminds us that we do temporarily belong here. He has us here to spread the message of forgiveness, hope, and charity in Christ. He says in John 17:15,

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

- How does being from another world influence the decisions you make?
- Does it all? Should it?
- How does thinking about being from another world make you feel?
- How should this truth (being from another world) affect the way we witness?
- Do you think this was the reason Paul caused such disturbances everywhere he went?
- If we’re not causing a disturbance (spiritually speaking) among the world around us, are we really proclaiming Him? Or have we become a part of this world too?
- Should proclaiming Jesus cause a disturbance every time?
- What are your thoughts?

My wife has put up another post if you're interested: Click here --> Trina's blog

1 comment:

faithful follower 4ever said...

Other than Jesus himself, Paul is the most incredible person in the Bible in my opinion. You have really made Paul's ministry come alive for me even more than it already was. What amazing work God did through him! Paul really affected people's lives, whether they were believers or not. And he was a man who had persecuted Christians. Makes me really think about my affectiveness for Christ. I certainly don't see any riots being started over what I say/do for God.