Lately in my own Bible reading, I’ve been working my way through the book of Acts. From chapter 16 onwards, the story follows Paul and various companions from city to city all around Greece, Turkey and Asia Minor. Over and over again, Paul begins in the synagogue where some believe and others reject his message. He then turns to the Gentiles of the city and some of them receive the good news. Most often, jealousy and outrage from those who are threatened by Paul breaks out into violence and unrest and Paul moves on, leaving a baby church behind him.
I’ve been pondering this pattern in the light of Peter’s words to us about suffering for being Jesus’ followers. I’ve been reflecting on how, in every city, preaching the gospel results in both people coming to know Jesus and people rejecting him. And I’ve noticed a few things.
Paul doesn’t change his strategy. He doesn’t think, “what I’m doing is making some people angry so I’d better change it to something everyone likes”. But he also doesn’t go looking for trouble – when things turn ugly or dangerous, he moves on. Paul listens to the Spirit and acts as the Spirit compels him, always willing to change his plans. He speaks boldly and seems to be unafraid of everyone, regardless of their authority or power.
However, while he is in Corinth, Jesus speaks to him in a vision and says “Don’t be afraid, speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you and no-one will attack or harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” (Acts 18:9-10). I find this interesting – yes, it’s a wonderful encouraging vision, but it’s also evidence that even Paul must have found it challenging to speak and tempting to be silent.
Paul’s words consistently result in both believers and rejecters, even attackers. But the ultimate outcome was churches all over the region that would shape the world! All from a willingness to speak God’s truth. I find this both encouraging and challenging – how about you?
Love to you all, Miranda.