Lord, today I want to have the faith to see You as You are so that I may praise You as I ought.
Consider: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference" (Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971). Wise words for effective living.
I once heard an avid football fan say about the Dallas Cowboys, "We hate those guys. We don't even know why. We just hate 'em." It's clear from our reading that the religious leaders had developed an irrational hatred for Paul; it transformed respected community officials into bloodthirsty lunatics. The question is "Why?" A lot of it had to do with the nature of Paul's message. These Jewish leaders just couldn't accept Jesus as their Messiah, but the animosity seems to be fueled by something else: prejudice. They couldn't accept that God's plan of salvation could include Gentiles (21,22).
The Jew-Gentile tension may not be an issue for the church anymore, but are we free of prejudice? People say that in America the most racially segregated hour of the week is 11:00-12:00 on Sunday morning, the time when many people go to church. Changing that picture will require more than just adding a few multiracial photos to the brochure. It starts by smiling, talking and making friends with people who are different from us. That's important because the grand finale for the church is a great multitude "from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:9,10).
It's ironic that Roman justice in this case involved punishing the victim, as if that would solve the problem. But the amazing thing is that even as Paul is being stretched out for a flogging (25) he's the only one who seems to be in control. When he casually mentions his Roman citizenship, the powerful centurion and his men act like scared rabbits. Paul was cool under pressure because he knew that God was ultimately in charge, so even losing his life would be a gain (Phil. 1:21).
Prayerfully set the following goal for today: smile at one person different from yourself and make a point of talking to them in a friendly way.
Gracious God, Your mercy is all-embracing. Strengthen my love for those who are different to me so that I may reflect Your love.
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