Monday, June 25, 2012

Loving Difficult People in Difficult Times

Monday, June 25
Scripture Reading—Acts 27:13-38

 Commentators point out that Luke’s detailed description of Paul’s trip to Rome rivals in excitement the great Greek tales of seafaring journeys that are met with great difficulty (e. g. Homer’s Odyssey).   In this part of Acts,  a trip that started with problems gets worse.  Just like an intense car chase in a modern movie, this tale of Paul’s journey reaches a point where it looks like everything—the ship with its large cargo of wheat and over 276 passengers—will be lost.  But Paul echoes words he’s spoken earlier and tells his pagan friends that though the ship and its material content will not survive the storm, all the people will be safe.  Paul is so unlike us in many ways.  His dramatic conversion experience on the Damascus Road is so much more exciting than the experience many of us have of coming to faith gradually over time.  His confidence in his authority as a preacher and prophet, on display in this passage, intimidates some of us who are more tentative in our pronouncements of God’s will.  Nonetheless, there are two things, that,  if in some small measure, could rub on us, would make an impact on our world.   First, Paul has established a rapport with the non-Christians on the boat.  Julius, the centurion in charge of his prisoner, Paul, grants Paul several privileges that seem unusually kind, given the situation.  Paul shows us that one of the ways God’s  love is made known to the world that does not know that love, is by ordinary people willing to love people enough to take responsibility for their well-being even when they are under duress themselves.  (Paul is a prisoner, caring for his captors!)  Second, Paul is laser focused on his mission.  He has dreamed all of his life of going to Rome to proclaim the Gospel and hoped that he’d go further west to Spain.  Going as a prisoner in chains to plead a legal case to Caesar was not what he had in mind, but even in the midst of his personal adversity, he believed God was at work to empower him to fulfill the dream planted in his heart many years before.  What if we as God’s people today could be that focused, that passionate, that determined to proclaim the good news even to our adversaries and enemies, even when we ourselves are in situations of great stress?  Wouldn’t that make a difference in our world?

 Thought for the day:  God can use us, even in the midst of our own adversity, to make God’s love known to those who need it most!

 Prayer:  O God, whenever I find myself in some great storm that threatens my well-being, help me to have such strong faith that I focus not only on my own survival, but on the well-being of others who may be looking to me to see signs of courage, hope, and  your loving presence.  Amen.

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