“Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities’—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:18 ESV)
I’ve never had a rock thrown at me for preaching the Gospel, never been shot at, never been threatened with a knife or any other sharp object. I’ve never been pushed because of the Gospel, never been attacked with fists (or open hands for that matter), kicked, or had any physical persecution from preaching the Gospel throughout my entire life – but I’ll tell you what I have experienced. I’ve lost friendships because I talk about Jesus too much. I’ve been called crazy, been looked at like a lunatic, been called a narrow minded person, had people just walk away from me. I’ve been told religion is my crutch and that I’m weak. I’ve had people avoid me, had people get angry with me, and I’ve been laughed at for what I believe.
During Joe’s sermon on Sunday, as we read through Acts 17:16-21, the verse above stood out to me. Paul was also called names, and rejected by people, and looked down on (not to mention beaten and stoned etc.) for preaching the Gospel. Paul’s Athens was a lot like North America today, an intellectually driven society who loved to hear new concepts, but had very little trust in lofty claims of one God and absolute truth. It can be a very demoralizing, and embarrassing endeavor to proclaim lofty truths like the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a society (we should know). So why do it?
The emphasis of Joe’s sermon was the word παροξύνω (Strongs 3947) or “was provoked” which refers to Paul’s spirit in verse 16. The idea being that the love of Christ compels or provokes us to sharing our faith with a lost people who are outside of Christ and without hope in the world. Paul’s spirit was provoked because he saw a lost people whose lives were filled with idols, and he understood them to be a people “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36 ESV). He had compassion on them, and was moved to action – even at personal determinant.
As we walk around Pinellas or its neighboring counties, do we see people for who they really are? Lost and without hope, harassed and helpless. And if so, are we moved to compassion to the point of sharing our faith even in the face of embarrassment, or worse yet, physical persecution and death. The truth is that we should, but speaking for myself, I typically walk around with blinders on to the deep need of Christ in those around me, and a close eye on my own reputation.
Lord change my heart, and the hearts of those like me. May we walk as you walked, in love and compassion, provoked by your Spirit to share your truth. Amen.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27 ESV)