Tuesday, September 7, 2010

revolution has its consequences

Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.
Acts 21:30-31

There may be this part of some of us, even my own heart sometimes, that secretly hopes to be wildly counter-culture as Jesus described the effect of His teaching in the world. It is the reality that Christianity is a holy rebellion against the sinful control of this world that drives this thinking. And that is true. But what is the consequence of the revolutionary nature of the Christian faith? It upsets firmly entrenched sin. And when firmly entrenched sin has created a power base for people... watch out. Christianity will be revolutionary... and persecuted. That is what is happening to Paul virtually anywhere he goes... and it is the case here in this passage in Jerusalem.

Paul had chosen to return to Jerusalem even though God had let him know several times that hardships and persecution awaited him there. He gave a good report to the apostles there. And he agreed to fulfill a vow at the temple at their suggestion. What nobody quite expected was that Paul's reputation proceeded him. And strong elements of anti-Christian sentiment were stirring up the crowds there with lies about what Paul was doing. It resulted in a riot and mob violence breaking out against Paul. By the time a squad of Roman peacekeepers arrives, Paul has already been brutally beaten and murderous rage has seized the crowd.

It is one thing to hope for revolutionary Christianity to change the culture. It is another thing altogether to live for that hope. It means being willing to be what Paul was... a life of hardship for the love of the gospel. It means being misunderstood even by your own people. It means confronting sin at its ugliest and facing death by evil means.

But even at its worst, persecution is still an experience within the sovereign control of God. The events that occurred to Paul would be used over the course of the next few years to take him before kings and leaders, eventually to stand trial before Caesar in Rome. Paul's willingness to suffer hardship for the cross led to greater impact for the gospel in the long run. And that is the kind of thing that is more than just revolutionary thinking. It is the reality of the gospel consuming our own wills in the beautiful grand will of God. And what we get from that surrender is greater than any battle fought with human hands. We get to bring glory to God and see His kingdom advance in ways never imagined before.

- Posted with my iPad. The Apple Kool-Aide tastes fine.

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