Acts 22: When the going gets tough

Application

I honestly don’t know that I could do it. Stand there and try to witness to the same mob which had just tried to beat me to death, that is. And yet, Acts 22 opens with the apostle Paul doing just exactly that.

Having been taken into custody by a squad of Roman soldiers and pulled out of the melee, bound with chains, to the step of the soldiers’ barracks, Paul asked to address the crowd, and when they had all quieted (apparently, more than just the Romans had thought him some sort of non-Jewish dissident, probably the result of his many years on the road), he addressed them. If Paul had intended to calm the riot, though, he used almost exactly the wrong approach.

It started out okay, I guess, with Paul explaining how he had been a very zealous Jew, something that they would all respect. But I suspect things started going south when he mentioned that he had experienced a vision of Jesus. Suddenly, the crowd was whispering to one another and growing increasingly restless with every word he uttered. Now, there was no doubt who he was, that Saul guy they had heard talked about God with Gentiles, and they were just waiting for their chance.

Then it came: Paul admitted that he had been sent to the Gentiles.

This was the final straw. They would hear no more. In their minds, it would have been bad enough for him to merely speak with a Gentile. But this guy had dared to embrace them! And more, he had even tried to tell them that God was the one who told him to do it!

Of course, if they had really sat down and listened to what the apostle had to say, they probably would have realized that he was actually realizing things which had been foretold from even the earliest days of the Old Testament. But they would have had to listen and think to figure that out. On the basis of rumor, hearsay, and this one comment, these people had already tried, convicted, and sentenced Paul. It was, in the truest sense of the word, prejudice.

As believers, we must not be surprised when people pre-judge us. There are all sorts of misconceptions about believers running around the world in which we live. All Christians are right-wing fanatics. All believers must check their intellects at the door. All people of faith hate others because they dare to stand up and say the right thing.

What’s interesting is that, had Paul just stayed quiet, I suspect that the troops would have kept him a night or two, the mob would have settled down and moved on to the next conspiracy, and the apostle would have been able to go his merry way. But Paul knew that it was at just such moments that he could not stay quiet!

When we are pre-judged as believers, it is so tempting to simply stop telling others about our faith. It is so easy to just give up on the whole witnessing thing. But that’s exactly what we must not do! Rather, it is in those moments that we are pre-judged when we must resolve to testify the clearest through both our actions and words. Hold your temper. Keep your cool. Tell people what Jesus has done in your life. And tell them what He would do in theirs, too.

You see, the truth is that, if we allow ourselves to be silenced by a little (or a lot of) opposition, ultimately, we will never tell anyone about Jesus! There will always be people that think we’re dense. There will always be people who think we’re a little cooky. There will always be people who pre-judge us because we’re following Jesus’ command to do things that don’t quite line up with what they think or expect.

Don’t let a little prejudice or resistance keep you from witnessing today because, when the going gets tough, real Christ-followers stand their ground and proclaim the truth.

Notes

  • (2) Apparently, the Roman guards weren’t the only ones that thought Paul was an Egyptian dissident. When he started speaking in Aramaic, the whole crowd became silent, apparently surprised that he would speak their language.
  • (2-21) Paul recounts the story of his conversion, providing a few additional details that we missed the first time around.
  • (21-22) Perhaps it was a strategic mistake to mention that he had been sent to deliver the Good News to the Gentiles, but I suppose the reality was that, even if he hadn’t mentioned it himself, someone else would have. At least this way he had the chance, albeit short-lived, to set the record straight and clarify that his task was actually fulfilling the God-given purpose of the Jews, rather than compromising it.
  • (25) An interesting portrait of the Romans appears here. They were extremely reasonable and even civilized and just when it came to dealing with citizens, but for the non-citizens, there was an entirely different standard, which included “advanced” interrogation methods and much more!
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