Thought for the Day by Anna Bland (All Hallows)
In Acts 23.12 we meet Paul after a council meeting, which turned violent because of what Paul was saying. Paul is thrown into prison, which is just the start of several years of imprisonment for him. An elite, purist group of Jews plot to kill Paul. The plot is thwarted by Paul’s nephew telling Paul and the local Roman ruler about it. It is the Roman commander who saves Paul’s life, providing him with 200 armed men and a letter of explanation to escort him to the Roman Governor in Caesarea.
I find this a strange story; and relatively unfamiliar. I struggle to know what we can learn from this series of events, but here are a couple of short suggestions.
The deep rooted self-interest of the Jewish elite and their commitment to things staying as they have always been is very apparent. They were willing to kill to stop what they saw as a subversive and dangerous man who was challenging the status quo. We may not be extremists who are likely to kill, but there is something to think about here for those of us who could be perceived a religious ‘insiders’. What are the things we desperately cling to, which might get in the way of us seeing where God is truly at work? What are our blind spots, which prevent us truly seeing the people outside our religious ‘bubble’ who are doing God’s work?
I also find it very interesting that the Roman Empire ends up being a protective force for the continuation of Paul’s ministry. With a few exceptions, the Gospels portray the Romans as a faceless power-house of Empire. In this story we see the all-powerful Roman rulers protecting Paul from a vigilante mob.
What I take from this is that there are always good people willing to do the right thing, including within morally questionable organisations. There are certain companies or organisations I might consider to be dark and destructive forces in the world, but within them there will be people making good moral choices, who are sparks of light and hope. It makes a mockery of simplistic ideas about good and bad people. We must lose our easy preconceptions and judgements based on who someone works for, or who they vote for! Within God’s generous economy, unexpected acts of justice and kindness are possible by all of us.