10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:10-11 NIV)
Paul continues his long legal battle with some in religious authority. It is interesting that Paul stands on his legal or civil rights here. His argument is that if the charges against him aren’t true then he should be handed over to them.
He appeals, as was his right as a Roman citizen, to Caesar.
Why does Paul do so? To protect his life? Perhaps. To give him an audience with the most powerful man in the world and to plead Christ before him? Perhaps!
To be a follower of Jesus does not mean we abandon our human or civil rights. It does mean that our following Jesus comes before all such considerations. Paul does not compromise his faith by making a legal argument before Festus, the Roman official. In fact he argues quite clearly that if he has done nothing wrong (and he is arguing throughout this story that he hasn’t ) then he shouldn’t be handed over to them and he shouldn’t die. To die is to halt his mission, to abort his purpose.
Luke earlier tells us “8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8). To go to Caesar with his case is to do just that – to enable the message of Jesus dead and risen to be told at the center of Paul’s world and to then spread to its farthest reaches.
Do I do the same? Do I look at each challenge of daily life, great or small, as a way to advance God’s mission? Do I use what is mine by right or birth or circumstance to God’s purposes? Not as consciously or as clearly or as consistently as I should. I need, like Paul, to be attentive to how God can use me and what I am to advance the message and to do His work and will.
Lord, you used Paul’s citizenship to get him to Rome and to carry your gospel to the heart of his world and culture. I confess that I have not given all that I am and all that I have to that purpose. Take my rights, my opportunities, my privileges, take me to the Rome’s of my life where I, too, may share the good news and witness to the truth. Amen.