by Pastor Jim Strelan
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They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their region (Acts 13:50b).
Do you ever get given a hard time because you are a Christian? You may not come across like a Bible-basher, but it is known that you are Christian, and so you become the butt of jokes and snide and sarcastic comments. This can happen in the workplace, in a sporting team, in the school community or in your extended family. It’s hard. You try to be non-judgemental, you are loving and understanding towards others, and if they want to debate, then you are willing to state your view, but opposition is strong and persistent, and it wears you down. You can even be tempted to try and cover your faith up – no-one can take constant ridicule for too long.
Paul and Barnabas experienced constant opposition as they spoke the word about Jesus. But they also attracted a lot of curious crowds and had the opportunity to share the grace of God with many people. Despite the opposition, they persisted. They were bold and unwavering. Did they have something you and I don’t have? Maybe they had a particular charisma that set them apart. Maybe they had particular gifts, more than the average person has. Maybe they didn’t. What they did have is a word from God. A word about Jesus, about forgiveness, about grace, about inclusivity in contrast to a holding onto an exclusivity. ‘When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord’ (Acts 13:48).
When it is known that you are a Christian, there will always be opposition. Your task is to be genuine in who you are in every way. To genuinely care, to genuinely give support, to match what you speak about with the way you act, to know that the word of the Lord is a powerful and life-changing thing. In the end, the power for change lies with God.
Lord God, it’s hard to stand up for you when it means I stand out. Please help me to be true and to trust the power of your word. Amen.