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Trouble for reaching people Jesus wanted to reach

April 22, 2023

Daily Scripture

Acts 22:5-22

5 The high priest and the whole Jerusalem Council can testify about me. I received letters from them, addressed to our associates in Damascus, then went there to bring those who were arrested to Jerusalem so they could be punished.
6 “During that journey, about noon, as I approached Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven encircled me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice asking me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?’ 8 I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are harassing,’ he replied. 9 My traveling companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. 10 I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ ‘Get up,’ the Lord replied, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told everything you have been appointed to do.’ 11 I couldn’t see because of the brightness of that light, so my companions led me by the hand into Damascus.
12 “There was a certain man named Ananias. According to the standards of the Law, he was a pious man who enjoyed the respect of all the Jews living there. 13 He came and stood beside me. ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ he said. Instantly, I regained my sight and I could see him. 14 He said, ‘The God of our ancestors has selected you to know his will, to see the righteous one, and to hear his voice. 15 You will be his witness to everyone concerning what you have seen and heard. 16 What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and wash away your sins as you call on his name.’
17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I had a visionary experience. 18 I saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Hurry!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem at once because they won’t accept your testimony about me.’ 19 I responded, ‘Lord, these people know I used to go from one synagogue to the next, beating those who believe in you and throwing them into prison. 20 When Stephen your witness was being killed, I stood there giving my approval, even watching the clothes that belonged to those who were killing him.’ 21 Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go! I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they shouted, “Away with this man! He’s not fit to live!”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The apostle Paul had preached Christ all over the Roman Empire—and made some obsessive foes. When they saw Paul in the Temple in Jerusalem, they stirred up a mob so violent that Roman soldiers had to rescue him (cf. Acts 21:27-36). Not intimidated, Paul saw this as a chance to tell the mob about his life-long passionate loyalty to God, and the way Jesus had redirected that loyalty. Scholar N. T. Wright sketched the historical roots of this tragic scene: “Take a sense of lasting horror at ‘the other side,’ in this case the entire world of paganism, that has been branded into the very soul of an entire people over not a few decades, not even a few centuries, but one or two millennia…. that horror of everything that dishonors this God, everything that lives outside the doors of the synagogue, outside the borders of the holy land; only then will you even begin to understand why Paul had to try to explain what had happened, and why the crowd had to reject it… with a furious passion.” *

  • This chaotic scene didn’t “come out of the blue.” Jesus mourned over Jerusalem’s citizen’s violent hatred of Rome rather than accepting his “love your enemies” message (cf. Luke 19:41-44). A common rabbinic prayer, one Paul likely prayed when younger, said, “Lord, I thank you that I was not born a Gentile.” The mob in Jerusalem was angry that Paul preached God’s grace to Gentiles. But Jesus gave him that mission (cf. Acts 9:15, 15:13-19) and repeated it that day in the Temple (verse 21). “Given the rise in Judean nationalism over the previous decade, Paul’s mention of ministry to Gentiles rekindles the riot (v. 22), which started over the charge that he had brought a Gentile into the temple (21:27–29).” ** Are there people in this world you’re thankful you AREN’T? Can you apply the principle of Paul’s mission and seek to help God reach even those people?

Lord Jesus, Paul tried for peace and understanding with his enemies—but not by discarding the mission you gave him. Give me a heart that seeks peace even when I must firmly stand for truth. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Cheryl Jefferson Bell

Cheryl Jefferson Bell

Pastor Cheryl Bell was born and raised in Detroit, completed college in Atlanta, Georgia, and seminary in Enid, Oklahoma, settled in Kansas in 1985 to work for Boeing and answered the call to fulltime ministry in 1990. She is a second career (Electrical Engineer) clergy, who has served in a variety of ministry settings, prior to coming to Resurrection! Praise and worship are her lifeline! The JOY of The Lord is my strength! Nehemiah 8.10!

Are there people in this world you’re thankful you AREN’T?

My first thought-response to this question was: I’m sure there are people who are thankful that they are not an African American Female Pastor, from Detroit, Michigan, who is divorced, has 4 children, is living with one of her children and her 4 children and now has a new LABRADANE (Labrador & Great Dane) puppy who will end up bigger than almost everyone in the house! Nope – don’t want to be her!

I sometimes have that same type of thought about others! And then I remember the words that Jesus affirmed, that we are to love our neighbor as ourself! That continues to be a challenge for me! Because of my biases, I sometimes see people through eyes of the “in” crowd and “out” crowd. From my own perspective and from others.

It’s a strange world to live in, when one is sometimes part of the “in” crowd and sometimes part of the “out” crowd. How are we to carry ourselves? What type of adjustments do we need to make to live as Jesus requires us to live? Perhaps Paul had that same struggle as he went through his conversion experience and was sent on the mission to reach out to the Gentiles, the “out” crowd?!

When I hear of incidents where folks are innocently being shot for normal, regular mistakes, I wonder, who is safe? Who is “in”? Who is “out”? Knocking on the wrong door? Pulling into the wrong driveway? Sitting in a classroom? Walking down the street? Under the care of those called to protect? It’s enough to make you wonder who is “in” and who is “out”? Unfortunately, the answers vary with each person.

How are we to live our lives? How can we protect ourselves? Who is the enemy? Who is a friend? Many of us ask ourselves the question “why”? Forgive me for going there! (Hey, my birthday is next week and I’m turning 67. I have more years behind me than in front of me, and like Paul, when God calls you to go there, you got to go!)

Being connected to our Community Justice Ministry, our vision and our goal is to help us, as a congregation, to DO JUSTICE! LOVE KINDNESS! AND WALK HUMBLY WITH OUR GOD! We do that well, but we are called to go further! Justice work is hard and it challenges folks! Justice work is Christ Work! Justice work is personal and it is communal! We’re in this together!

So, when you think of those you are thankful that you are not, what is God calling you to do about that? Ask yourself why? We may need to find ways to love more, to love deeper, to love as Jesus Loves! For me, I find it difficult when I see signs of racism/homophobia/sexism/ableism/you name it “ism”! I have found it too easy to be judgmental towards others. That is when I sometimes think, “I’m thankful that I’m not them”! That is when I know that I need Jesus’ help! What about you?

We are called to love our neighbor! For me, and I believe for our God, our neighbor is everyone outside of ourself! Loving others is what we are called to do and I believe it is one of the hardest things that we are called to do. That is why I believe that God didn’t give us a long list of things to do. We have to work at it and keep at it, whether you see others or yourself as “in” or “out”! Others are our neighbors! But the Good News is that we don’t have to travel this journey alone! God has promised to be with us. We can lean on our Loving, Forgiving, Gracious, Righteous and Amazing God to help us! Whew!

I don’t know why I ended up with this particular passage to reflect on, but here it is! You may be thinking, “I’m so thankful I’m not Pastor Cheryl right now!” All I can say is Amen and Amen!

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 13–28. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008, p. 159.
** NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (p. 9685). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.