Day 28: Popularity or Persecution: Which Do You Choose? (Acts 13:13-52)
Today’s Passage: Acts 13:13-52
“She is one of the popular girls.” “He is part of the “in-crowd”.”
Early in life, somehow, this idea of being popular begins to hold sway in our lives. Many adults are still reeling from those middle and high school years. Others of us have no desire to return to that time when we did not feel as if we “fit”, or even worse, felt “tortured”
Why start here? Because in the reading today a pattern emerges where Paul starts out as popular and ends up being persecuted.
Consider the pattern.
Paul, when he arrives at a city or village, first goes to the Jewish people. Normally we will read he went to the synagogue. There must be something about him. The readings reveal that he is often given the opportunity to speak. Is this the Holy Spirit’s anointing of him? Is he the popular kid?
In churches today most of us are passive listeners. We are not “given the floor” to say whatever we want. Yet Paul time and again is. He starts out as a popular fella.
When he speaks, he speaks of what is referred to in a shorthand way as Salvation History. Salvation History is the macro-storyline that runs through the Bible, starting with Creation and going all the way through Jesus’ birth-to-ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Paul explains how Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers and sisters, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” 13:38-39.
Many Jews believe and are excited—hey, the popular kid is doing well!
But hold on, the excitement soon threatens those in charge and Paul and his cohort are summarily dismissed.
Paul then goes, in the same city or village, to the Gentiles and shares that they too are welcome into God’s presence for eternity through Jesus. Many believe and are excited, and in this episode it says, “the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region”. Hey, he is popular again.
But wait, those in power feel threatened and stir up opposition.
The power struggle continues with Paul and his companions persecuted in various ways and driven out from the region.
Now if you were Paul, what would your reaction be?
Paul and his companion’s reaction…be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps for Paul and his companions is it neither popularity nor persecution they seek, but rather purposeful obedience.
As I ponder their performance, as I allow this pattern to percolate, is my purpose to serve God sufficient to silence those who proclaim my un-popularity? Is it sufficient to silence the voices in my head which cause me to be fearful?
Does this idea of popularity, or perhaps acceptance, affect how you follow Jesus?