May 23, 2004
In early 1998 the city of Cincinnati prosecuted a woman for slipping a quarter into a parking meter a few steps ahead of the meter maid. Because the lady did not own the car, she had to pay a hefty fine and was even threatened with jail time for her helpfulness. Thus proving again the old saying, "no good deed goes unpunished."
Going out of your way to do something good can get you into trouble- this explains why so many people live by the slogan, "Don't get involved."
The Apostle Paul was willing to stick his neck out for Jesus; he was involved. And he often times paid a price for his good deeds. In II Corinthians 11 he mentions among other things, that he was flogged five times, beaten with rods three times, and jailed countless times.
If you've ever tried to confront a friends over their addiction, or an infidelity in their marriage, or tried to warn your company about illegal practices, you may have found out that you are seldom thanked for your involvement in their moral improvement.
Living like Jesus is risky business.
Read Acts 16.
What is the most "apple cart upsetting" thing you've ever done for Jesus (not counting your involvement in church wars over carpet colors)? Paul's exorcism brought relief and freedom to a young girl, but profound economic reversals to her pimps. The secular world does not like it when you "set free" what it thinks it owns.
The slave girl's owners rejected the message of Jesus because it cost them money. How often does financial concern cause people to reject the message today? Is this ever a factor for you? And why is it upsetting news to the secular world, that Jesus offers genuine forgiveness, spiritual and mental health, and real life? They have seen that the message of Jesus does have impact. It means things are about to change.
Of course, Jesus intended that His influence would make a difference. In John 17 one of His last prayers, He asks the Father, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one...as you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." These words lay out a fairly aggressive posture for His people. They can not very easily be twisted into saying, "isolate yourself from the world" or "stand on the sidelines and criticize."
Are you upsetting anyone by living for Jesus? Some who claim the name of Jesus are upsetting their neighbors by being obnoxious. These people are embarrassing. You see them driving down the road with a Christian bumper sticker and leaving a crowd of offended drivers in their wake. Other Christians are more committed to denominational rules than they are to the future prospects of their friends. These people are boorish and then whenever I hear a ball player credit Jesus for a victory, I hold my breath that we don't hear about them being arrested the next week. There is more than one way to be an upsetting Christian.
Jesus did not call us to be obnoxious or upsetting in an embarrassing way. He called us to be salty or zesty, not galling and distasteful.
Paul and Silas were powerfully engaged with their world, but not obnoxious. They set the slave girl free (spiritually). This poor girl was not only captive to her pimps, but to a demon. She was freed and that is good news.
But the world and its pimps don't like you messing with what is theirs, so they imprisoned Paul and Silas (racial hatred had something to do with it, too), but for some reason these two men never figured out, they are in jail. In their mind God is still competent. They may be locked up, but somehow they still think God is wise and capable. He is still worthy of worship. Nothing has changed in that regard.
Life in Jesus provides a prospective that puts all adversity in a new light. Even this trouble can be used to His advantage. They know that they are not exempt from trouble because of their faith, but they also know that trouble can not separate them from Jesus or defeat Jesus in any way. And so they sing out their love for Jesus.
In the darkness of midnight worship, the miracle of broken bonds and open doors happens. The jailer has heard and seen enough. He wants the joy and peace that Paul and Silas have. These two men have upset his view of the world and he prefers their life to his old life.
What kind of impact have we made on our world? A General Superintendent recently observed, "the church in America is so disconnected from the world that if we experienced a great revival, the world might not even notice."
Recently in Chicago a fifteen year old was shot by gang members while playing basketball across the alley from an ER. The ER staff refused to treat him saying it was against policy to go outside. By the time a frustrated police officer wrangled a wheel chair and brought the boy in it was too late!
Lord, please don't let that be a picture of the church. We feel safe inside our fellowship and we have good stuff to offer the world- if they'll just come and get it. At times when Christians get the courage to try to develop relationships with sinners, the rest of us take shots at them. "Stay pure, you are getting polluted, let them come in for help!"
But there are the courageous exceptions, real heroes of the faith. Recently four Christian lay-missionaries were killed in Iraq. Main stream media said nearly nothing. When they did say something it was to express indignation about the idea of missionaries, period. Their comments went along the lines of, "the Bible is right behind the bombs these days." Christian missionaries are considered religious imperialists, imposing a foreign way of life. Why would a Christian want to engage the culture of the Fertile Crescent?
May I share a distressing news photo? You won't have to cover your eyes, but in some ways it is as disturbing as any photo from recent scandals. At first view you might think it looks like a Middle East Mother's day card. You see a smiling little girl with bright eyes looking adoring into the face of her own smiling mother. The quote that comes with the photo is spoken by the little girl (Fatima), " My mother did this because she did not want us to be punished by people. I love my mother much more now than before." What great thing did her mother do? She murdered little Fatima's older sister. Now the mother did try to avoid this gruesome act. She made an effort to talk Fatima's sister into killing herself. She even purchased the razor blades for her to cut her wrists, but the girl couldn't be talked into it.
The trouble started because Rofayda was gang rapped by her older brothers and got pregnant. Consequently the neighbors started to talk and relatives stopped visiting. So Fatima's mother one night entered her daughter's room and did the job of slitting her daughter's wrists herself. This "honor crime" was celebrated and held up as a role model in this dark culture. This mother and her culture are in deep bondage to hate and evil of a very demonic kind. We could condemn them with righteous anger, but they need to know about the freedom and life in Jesus. The four men and women I mentioned earlier got involved and tried to bring light into the dark, and like Paul, they paid a price in this world. The secular world insults them for being imperialistic and the darkened local culture hates them for bringing change.
Paul and Silas were engaging the world and upsetting things, but not being obnoxious about personal agendas. They did not set out to upset people, but sometimes by following Jesus other people get upset. On the other hand, many times people are set free of their demons and darkness because someone got involved!
When was the last time someone came to you in the middle of their darkness and asked, "what must I do to be saved?" Are you an upsetting Christan? It is scary, but I would like to be- not obnoxiously or in an embarrassing way- not even necessarily by going to the Middle East. Heaven knows there are millions of people in bondage all around us. Can we be filled with Jesus in a way that makes people wonder if they can be filled with Him too? Some will find it upsetting , but that's okay.