Acts 14:2-3 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.
One word jumps out at me from this: So, starting verse 3. (The Japanese softens it just a little, to “Even so.”) This is hardly the way most people would respond to people’s minds being poisoned against them! However, throughout the New Testament, and indeed, throughout the history of the Church, we have the record of people taking opposition as a sign they were doing things right. Various times Jesus made it very clear that those who follow Him will face the sort of opposition He faced, so believers have taken it as a badge of honor. The Church in America has been pampered for much of the 250 years the nation has existed, and the current anti-Christian discrimination that is showing up in various places (and thankfully, some of it getting struck down by courts) is a good wake-up call. American Christians are used to praying for Christians under persecution in other areas of the world, but I know of at least one pastor in Sudan who, being told American churches were praying for him, responded that he prayed for American believers that their faith would not drown in the sea of luxury. I think he was given direct revelation by the Holy Spirit! We are not used to paying a price for our faith, which makes us value it little. It is a simple fact that people fail to value things that don’t cost them anything. Jane Fonda recently said that she thought COVID-19 was “God’s gift to the Left,” but in point of fact, it may well be God’s gift to the Church, to snap them out of their stupor and expose all the vile things that have come out over the past year. This is not a time to treat people as enemies, but it is certainly a time to take sides, to open our eyes and see what is Scriptural and what is not. Dr. Cal Guy, whom I was privileged to have as a seminary professor, said that those in active opposition to the Gospel were far better prospects for evangelism than those who simply didn’t care. Saul/Paul is of course the chief Biblical example, but Dr. Guy told of a man who literally spit in his face – and not just saliva – when he was doing door-to-door evangelism, but who later was saved and became a deacon in Dr. Guy’s church. We give up far too quickly!
This is a somewhat uncomfortable thing for me to write about, because I have had little active opposition to ministry in Omura, but I have also had little harvest. Maybe I need to be making bigger waves! Japanese culture emphasizes harmony, and people sometimes bend over backwards to avoid disturbing what they see as harmony. However, their perceptions are often distorted, because uniformity isn’t the same thing as genuine harmony. Japanese believers sometimes face ostracism from their family and associates, but more often, it is the fear of such ostracism that holds them back. I’ve never had any opposition to faith in my family, quite the opposite, so I have no direct empathy with such believers. All I can do is pray for them and speak the truth in love, asking the Holy Spirit to sort it all out. At the very least, I need to encourage them not to fear opposition, but rather to take it as an honor, just as Paul and Barnabas did.
Father, thank You for this Word. Help me say what You want me to say, when and how and to whom You want me to say it, so that Your Word may have its full work as You intend, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!