I must confess, I do not understand many things that go on in the world around me. I do not understand the fascination with torn jeans worn by people who could afford a pair with years of wear in them. Another thing that puzzles me is the way passion finds its way into so many discussions. People cook with passion, sing with passion, and design widgets with passion. Perhaps living in a time of relative affluence sets the stage for may people in my country to look for passion to decide what they will do with their life. Just saying the word makes them set apart, special. Public discourse seems to say being passionate about something should guarantee success and acclaim from those that matter. If a person can’t be passionate about something, then become passionate about someone who is passionate.
Passion for passion provides the fuel for a world gone mad for celebrity. We wear clothes with other people’s names on them – a clear mark of being owned by someone with passion. The youngest self-made billionaire comes from a family that is famous for being famous. Their lives become a reality show. The reality show created a need to be like those people, so the young lady had a ready-made market for her clothing line. While I do not understand reality shows, I have to admit the young lady is quite brilliant in harnessing a world’s need for the next best thing to passion … dressing like someone who has “it”.
As I walk through Acts 22 I see a story filled with passion. Reading the story reminds me of pictures of a girl touching a static electricity ball in a children’s science museum. The electricity makes her hair literally stand on end. The air carried a similar charge as Paul began to defend himself. Passion ran wild on all sides.
Paul begins his defense as many speakers do today. He presented his credentials as a favored son. He had passionately studied at the feet of the greatest teacher of the day and used his education to zealously hunt down the people of the Way who threatened the foundation of Jewish identity. Like modern day Mossad members who hunted down Nazi war criminals or the 1972 terrorists that assassinated 11 Israeli summer Olympic athletes in Munich, Paul tracked down followers of the Christ in ever widening concentric circles. All of the elders could witness to this man’s zeal for God and the warrants he carried to Damascus.
True zeal or passion acts on behalf of some cause. Since passion motivates to action, once Saul found out who blinded him on his mission to Damascus, he asked what Jesus wanted him to do. He had to surrender his purpose to arrest people of the Way in order to hear what he should do. Later in the story Paul tells of times when he received his direction straight from the Lord, his first steps came through a disciple who knew the law as he did. Ananias greeted his new brother with the new commission – Paul now lived to witness of all the things he had seen and heard.
Perhaps the new job seemed a step down from the old commission. Hunting down faith offenders sure seems more manly than just living to tell the things you have seen and heard. Then again, I suppose that depends on what the witness has seen.
Paul became a part of the great cloud of witnesses. Sometimes they would not accept his testimony, at other times masses converted from their previous passion to their new passion to become witnesses in their own right.
Most men like shinny things, fast things, and loud things. Hand guns and sports cars fascinate us for some reason. Dodge Hellcats and Bass Pro Shops provide evidence that a substantial number of us don’t outgrow our boyhood ways. What we cannot have we admire in the possession of others and dream of a 10 car garage, or a 10 point buck.
Paul’s passion grew beyond a juvenile faith. He did not talk of the miracles of dead raised, lame that walked, or servant girls freed from demons. Instead he took the risk of underscoring the most powerful witness at his disposal. His testimony reached its climax when he recounted the vision when the Lord sent him to witness to the Gentiles.
Reading the story in my recliner makes me seriously question Paul’s skill as a litigator. He took that which gave him credentials at the beginning of the witness, zeal for exclusively Jewish faith, and reversed its polarity in a way that gave his audience emotional whiplash. What was he thinking! If he just edited the story in a way that highlighted faithfulness to the law, then he would have been home in time for dinner. Instead he fulfilled his passion. He witnessed to the wonder of a gospel that invited ALL to experience redemption. In one of his letters he explained the way Christ pulled down old categories that created privilege (male/female, Jew/Greek, and free/slave). A gospel that removes all personal privilege is stronger than a gospel that only heals blind eyes, straightens limbs, and survives storms.
Oops, I think Paul is witnessing to me today rather than the mob. He abandons his credentials as a missionary, preacher, writer, and miracle worker for the simple, yet profound, office as witness. Could discipleship really be that basic? Am I willing to turn away from pursuing the shiny evidences of the kingdom for the power to witness? Are Acts 22 and Acts 1:8 really true?
Such questions call me to pray.
I must confess I quest for the shiny parts of the Gospel. I know You do many miracles today, and I so want to see more of them. But today the Word calls me to see the greater power in opening the reconciling door to all people as Your deeper, more eternal work than mere cornea replacements.
I repent of my tendency to put the emphasis in the wrong places. You promised these signs should follow those that believe. You did not call us to seek them or follow them. Instead You strip my power to the one place where I can actually have a voice. You call me and my people to celebrate the wonder of witness. Seeing, believing, living, and telling the story of Your eternal life offered to all.
Some witnesses will end like Stephen. Other witnesses fade quickly from the plot line like Ananias. Other witnesses become the focal point of the mission like Paul. But all have that divine power to witness.
Could you help me see that power to witness is enough? It seems like You send me as a little boy facing deadly force with a toy rock slinger. But as I think of it, that is exactly what You frequently do. You send us a sheep among wolves. You send us with no extra resources. You just send us with the words of Emmanuel.
I believe the witness is enough. Now I want to live like it.
Maybe then I can more honestly pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” When I pray that way I am more satisfied to witness of Your goodness to someone than having the “credit” for healing blind eyes. I pray it again, “Thykingdom come, Thywill be done.
In Jesus’ name,