Friday, November 06, 2015

Paul and Barnabas in Antioch--Clarity, Trust and Equanimity in Missionary Work

My respect for the clarity, trust and equanimity of these two struck me this morning.

Paul speaking in the synagogue in Antioch:
Acts, chapter 13
"'Therefore, brothers and sisters, know this: Through Jesus we proclaimed forgiveness of sins to you. From all those sins from which a person couldn’t be put in right relationship with God through Moses’ Law,  through Jesus that person who believes is put in right relationship with God. Take care that the prophets’ words don’t apply to you:
 Look, you scoffers,
    marvel and die.
I’m going to do work in your day —
    a work you won’t believe
    even if someone told you.”[Hab. 1:5]
" As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people urged them to speak about these things again on the next Sabbath. When the people in the synagogue were dismissed, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism accompanied Paul and Barnabas, who urged them to remain faithful to the message of God’s grace.  

"On the next Sabbath, almost everyone in the city gathered to hear the Lord’s word. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were overcome with jealousy. They argued against what Paul was saying by slandering him.  Speaking courageously, Paul and Barnabas said, “We had to speak God’s word to you first. Since you reject it and show that you are unworthy to receive eternal life, we will turn to the Gentiles. This is what the Lord commanded us:
"I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
so that you could bring salvation to the end of the earth.”[Isaiah 49:6]
 "When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and honored the Lord’s word. Everyone who was appointed for eternal life believed,  and the Lord’s word was broadcast throughout the entire region.  However, the Jews provoked the prominent women, as well as the city’s leaders. They instigated others to harass Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their district.  Paul and Barnabas shook the dust from their feet and went to Iconium.  Because of the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the disciples were overflowing with happiness."
As an aside, I have heard many conjectures about what exactly "shake the dust of your feet" means. Some of them were less charitable than others. I think the one I've pasted below makes sense.  It reminds me of the patient comment of a friend whose beloved husband was making stupid choices that she could not change. 
"I hand him up to God", she smiled.  
No rancor, no holier-than-thou, just a recognition that she had done that which she could, that she would continue to love, and that she could also gratefully trust God to do healing and teaching beyond what she was able to do in their committed relationship. 
Shaking off the dust:  "There are situations in our lives where God calls us to stand firm, proclaim truth, and give patient testimony. Sometimes we need to continue until we see the results of that testimony. Other times God gives us the freedom to... figuratively “shake the dust off our feet” when, under the Holy Spirit’s direction, we surrender those people to the Lord."
I trust God with that.

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