Relationships. Ugh. I’m certain in the Garden of Eden they were—like everything else—perfect. But in their post-curse condition, I believe they’re the single-most-used character-refining tool in God’s tool chest. Why do we pick the friends we pick? The spouse we choose? (I suppose we’re stuck with our families, eh?) When I think about my closest friends, they span many ages and personality types. Some are quiet and reserved, some outgoing and gregarious. Some are meticulous and organized, others dreamers and big-picture folks. So why did I let them into my heart? I’m VERY choosey about who gains access to those deep, hidden places. Perhaps a better question is: What is it about a person’s spirit that identifies with the Spirit of God inside me? I’m still not sure I know the answer, but here are a few thoughts after reading about Paul’s relationships…
Acts 18:1-3 – “After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.” (emphasis added)
Paul found immediate commonality with Aquila and Priscilla. All three of them had endured recent persecution—Paul in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens; Aquila and Priscilla in Rome. And up until now, we didn’t know Paul had been a tradesman—a tentmaker. But these three lives converge in Corinth, new friends with commonality. Generally speaking, we choose friends with whom we share something in common. Our personalities or preferences may be different; however, in order to have true kinship, we must share a common bond, interest, or passion. It’s the glue that binds us through inevitable adversity. Commonality is a relationship’s foundation.
Acts 18:4-8 – “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’ Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” (emphasis added)
Paul offered the gospel to brother Jews in the synagogue, but their shared heritage was NOT stronger than Paul’s passion for Truth. We all choose—consciously or unconsciously—which common factors we let bind us to others. Consider the qualities you share in your relationships (good and bad). When you speak the Truth of Christ, are you willing to distance yourself from one who abuses you for the truth? Likewise, are you willing to remain faithful to speak the truth faithfully week after week to those who don’t accept it—but are still willing to listen? Notice that only one Gentile name is listed and then another Jewish name—the synagogue ruler—is added to the list of new believers. Paul didn’t give up on those Jews who were willing to listen…
Acts 18:9-11 – “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.” (emphasis added)
Just a little tip…if the LORD Himself comes to you in a vision and says, “Don’t be afraid…” You should put on your game-face—you’re about to play in the Big Leagues. But DON’T BE AFRAID! Because you’ve just been inducted to the Hall of Faith! All the “heavy-hitters” got a personal coaching session: Noah, Abram, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah. The father of John the Baptist only got an angel messenger. Mary received the visitation of a holy birth. But Jesus—well, that’s a whole other league. Here’s my point. When we receive an understanding from our God, no matter how it comes—a dream, a quickening from His Word, a gentle knowing in our spirit—we share a commonality with those who have gone before us. We can endure whatever comes because we have the example of the faithful to live for the Faithful One. We may not know what it’s like to live in 1st-century Palestine, but we can certainly know our unchanging God’s presence and promise.
Acts 18:12-17 – “While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. ‘This man,’ they charged, ‘is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.’ Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law–settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.’ So he had them ejected from the court. Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever.” (emphasis added)
I wish I could read the original Greek text. When the LORD appeared to Paul (v.10), He specifically said, “No one will attack and harm you, Paul…keep on speaking.” I find it interesting that author Luke records here, “…the Jews made a united attack…” and “…Just as Paul was about to speak….” It’s as if Luke wants us to know that Paul’s faith in God’s promise was tested to the tips of his fingernails. No, Paul wasn’t harmed—but almost. Yes, he was ready to speak—but didn’t have to. How bittersweet this must have felt. Paul watched Sosthenes, so unlike him in faith, now beaten by a riotous crowd—just as Paul had been beaten in Lystra (Acts 14). Alike in the injustice, their difference was highlighted by the most important truth: Paul stood under the powerful protection of God’s promise.
- Lord, I think You’re teaching me to enjoy those relationships that are maintained and grow as I sit on Your lap, or dance in Your arms, or worship at Your feet. If, however, a relationship draws me from Your presence, a change must be made—either in the relationship, or how I engage in the relationship. As always, Lord, give me Your wisdom as I live out Your truth.