Acts 26:29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
When you think about it, this was a remarkably bold declaration for someone in Paul’s shoes. King Agrippa had enormous temporal power over Paul, yet Paul proclaimed the necessity of repentance and faith. Oh that more believers would be like that! His desire for God and His kingdom was greater than any consideration of his own physical situation. In today’s world of “political correctness,” such an attitude is seen as conceited and bad. “How dare you think yourself so superior!” The thing is, Paul didn’t think he was superior in and of himself, he had simply discovered the grace of God and knew that everyone needed it as much as he did. Having discovered and accepted it automatically put him in a better place than anyone who had not done so, even including King Agrippa. The thing is, he was desiring that everyone join him in that place of advantage. Some people react badly to evangelism because they don’t like being told they are inadequate as they are, and resent that anyone would claim to be better off than they are. That makes a lot of Christians fail to share the Gospel because they fear that reaction. The thing is, if we don’t share and give them the opportunity to repent and believe, they are headed for hell. Too many Christians, even, don’t believe in hell! We need to love people enough to risk rejection, understanding God’s grace and love toward us and seeking to extend that grace and love to others.
I’m really talking to myself here! I am very big on conflict avoidance. I hate confrontation! However, running from confrontation creates more problems than it solves. Just last night I was talking with some people about how the Bible talks about escaping temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13, though some translations avoid that wording) but it doesn’t talk about escaping confrontation. Paul does say “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) We certainly aren’t to seek confrontation, but we must not let fear of confrontation keep us from sharing the Gospel. As a pastor, one of my weakest points has been a failure to correct, to lay down God’s law. That’s not the same as a failure to share the Gospel but it’s closely related. I need to love people enough to risk their not liking me. I have seen churches torn apart by a failure to exercise proper discipline, but I’ve still let it happen here. I must not do that! I’ve got to get out of my comfort zone to impart life to others, warning them of their destructive behavior even if it means they don’t like me as a result. Frankly, that’s scary. In the conversation last night I had no trouble speaking God’s truth, but now I’ve got to follow through and act on it, or I’m only deceiving myself.
Father, thank You for what You are doing, and for making it clear to me just now. Thank You that You don’t leave any of us where we are, but keep drawing us to greater maturity in Christ, and that you use us to do that for each other. May I not run from this opportunity to grow, but rather accept and transmit Your grace faithfully, and eventually with joy, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!