Friday, March 4, 2016

I Appeal to Caeser

But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” (Acts 25:9-12)
The above text comes in the larger context of the final episode of Paul’s life, which will eventually see him go to Rome, shipwreck, etc… In the immediate context, there are a group of religious leaders who want to take Paul’s life, which is why Festus’ offer of going to Jerusalem holds no appeal for Paul. Paul is in a bad spot. He is hard pressed by adversaries (the Jews) actively seeking to take his life and he is passively being defrauded of justice by the establishment (Festus) who should be standing up for him, but who is too concerned for his own political skin. Understanding this context it is quite shocking that Paul appeals to Caesar! Why would he seek the help of government that is failing, and failing him?
Perhaps you see why this is on my mind. We are in the wake of a “Super Tuesday” in which America has spoken. Most people I have talked to are not happy with either result, Democrat or Republican. This past week inquiries into what it takes to move to Canada literally crashed the Canadian website. Facebook is filled with hand-wringing (anxiety-driven, the sky is falling predictions), finger-pointing (both liberal and conservative moralists who have all the answers and like to say “I told you so”) and a good dose of those laughing so as not to cry. What is a Christian to do in the midst of failing systems?

Let me offer you 3 principles, learning from folks like Paul. 
  • First, remember who you are. A Father who loves you, a Son who died for you, and a Spirit who lives in you. Paul heard very clearly from the Lord that he was a “chosen instrument” (Acts 9:15). God’s choosing gave him confidence in the face of adversity. He knew that God was in control of the situation and that God was watching out for him. We too are “the called, the beloved, the kept” (Jude 1). As systems fail around us, we must never lose sight of this truth. “If God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

  • Second, remember, you are following your Older Brother. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” The greatest participator in an unjust system, with the most egregiously unjust outcome was our precious Older Brother. Denied justice, stripped, beaten and crucified like a common criminal, our Lord, not a victim, gave himself for us. He is our example, but even more than that, he is the one who empowers us. You have been crucified with him, divine justice is satisfied. Hell has no claim on you. You are truly untouchable. So, united to Him, go forward.

  • Third, stay engaged. Paul appeals to Caesar. Incredible. The Roman government was a mess. Justice was failing Paul at the moment. But he does not pull out. Perhaps he recalls the words that his companion and writer friend Luke recorded in Luke’s Gospel chapter 21. There Jesus said that his followers would indeed be brought before kings and tribunals. Life would be hard for them and they would be persecuted for Christ’s name. But he went on to add, “this will be your opportunity to bear witness. (v. 13)” Rather than move to Canada, let us look to move into profitable, gospel-centered conversations in the places where God has us. Rather than engage in making mockery of the process and the people, let us look for ways to speak the truth in love. Pray for our processes. Pray for our candidates. Move beyond political tribalism and scour your Bible to discover the principles of the kingdom that should be emphasized. You may feel as if you are up against a brick wall. You may even fear for your life. But remembering principles #1 and 2, stay engaged!

  • No comments:

    Post a Comment