Life Journal (10/23/2015) – The Difficulty of Religion

Scripture     Acts 17:13-15

13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

Observation

  • “But” in vs. 13 is a contrast to the reception Paul received in Berea
  • In this entire narrative in Acts 17, when the opposing Jews “stir” up things, Paul leaves for another place
  • Why this opposition? Why this desire to agitate the crowds wherever Paul preaches?
  • In 17:5 we are told they were “jealous” and acted to disrupt Paul’s preaching in Thessalonica and then here in Berea
  • Of what are they envious, jealous… so much so that they follow him to another place?

Application

Paul experiences opposition in many places and many ways. Like his own life before his conversion, some in the Jewish community violently oppose Paul’s preaching and teaching. Some so much – as here – that they follow him to other places to stir opposition where it hadn’t occurred on its own. Much of Paul’s difficulty doesn’t come from the culture but from the people who are on his side of things – the Jews.

Luke tells us here that the Jews causing Paul difficulty are jealous… but of what? If this story tells us something about conflict or disagreement in churches, for instance, then I am unsure what it tells us! Having grown up in church, I have seen plenty of opposition – especially to the new or to the different. What I wonder is what this story might tell me about it?

What seems clear is the opposition becomes personal – it is Paul of whom they are jealous and not necessarily intellectual opposition to his message.

This much is probably true from this story from Paul’s journey: much conflict is grounded in emotion not logic, in feelings rather than fact. I wonder if Paul leaves because against such there isn’t much one can do.

Prayer

Lord, your servant Paul found himself in conflict. We will too, especially it seems in the church as he did among those of his faith. Help me to appreciate the emotion and the passion that lies behind people’s roles in conflicted situations, their zeal. And to learn from you how to respond instead of responding as my flesh would do out of my own emotion. In the name of the one to whom Paul witnessed, Jesus the Risen One. Amen.

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