We’ve been looking at Acts and challenging the whole Church to read through the whole book. Besides being an indespensible source of early church history it is also a rich source of leadership lessons. We’re going to look at another one from chapter 13.
Paul is in Antioch and goes into the synagogue, because that’s usually where he started when he visited a city. Paul speaks about the history of Israel and that Jesus is the fulfillment of that history. Then he introduces them to the idea that Jesus is their savior.
I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him, everyone who believes is justified from the law of Moses.
The idea was that God fearing Jews maintained a relationship with God by following all the laws set out by Moses. There were 613 of them. And most people were not doing that well keeping them all all of the time. Paul says, let me simplify this. You are trying to get your sins forgiven, you are trying to get into a relationship with God. You are trying to get good with God. Good news, it’s taken care of for you in Jesus Christ, your sins forgiven, you can put aside that burden of guilt, you can know that your past is redeemed, your present has a purpose and your future is secure. The people are intrigued, so they invite him to come back the next week. And, he does.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
Paul is having a tremendous impact and once again the Jewish leaders respond badly: they’re filled with jealousy, which predictably leads them to violence and abuse. Just because he’s talking about Jesus and people are listening.
Jesus suffered, died and was buried because every person needs a Savior, that’s a dangerous message to some people. Some people don’t to hear they need a savior, they want to hear “I’m OK, you’re OK, we’re OK.”
A lot of our culture doesn’t even want to hear the name Jesus. It’s amazing how much discomfort you can awaken, just by mentioning the name Jesus. Say “Jesus” in public (in any way that’s not as a curse) and you will make people uncomfortable. I was asked to offer a prayer, a prayer!, at a gathering I am fairly sure was about 100% culturally Christian and I used the name Jesus and could feel the discomfort. Because that name reminds some people that they need a savior.
Some other people recognize that they need help. They have a kind of ache in their heart, who have recognized they need a savior or that life isn’t quite working out for them the way they know it could, that there has to be a better way – they will be open to hearing about Jesus.
Paul experienced both these reactions in Antioch. What does he do?
Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly.“We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it we now turn to the gentiles for the Lord has commanded us to be a light for the Gentiles.”
Paul spoke out boldly. Paul was bold. That’s how God wants us to be. He wants us to be bold for him. God calls us to be bold in building up his kingdom, growing his family, bringing others into a relationship with his Son. He wants us to be bold in using the name of his son.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could be comfortable. Jesus didn’t die on the cross to increase our sense of safety and security. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could be timid and afraid to use his name.
He died to save us, but we are not just saved from something, we are saved for something.
God has a mission for us, and he’s given us a mission field, right here in Timonium (or whichever community you’re in) in the Giant, at the gym, on the lacrosse field, paying attention to the people around us. God has given us a mission to invest in the people around us and then to invite them to prayer, to church, to a conversation about God so that they can come to know they need a savior and they have a savior, so that they can come to know that their sins are forgiven, that life doesn’t need to be all striving and struggle, but there is joy in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Inviting other people to Church can feel weird and strange, especially to us as Catholics who haven’t been taught to do that, but in taking that bold step, God promises to be with us. And God disproportionately rewards and blesses us for even the smallest steps in that direction.
As I was working on this message, I took a break at Starbucks on Tuesday. A woman came running over to me. She’s saying “I did it, I did it.” Turns out what she had done, is invite a co-worker who didn’t have a church to church. That’s boldness. Andy Stanley says “Boldness is not volume.” Boldness is not standing on street corners shouting at people, boldness is not going door to door annoying people, boldness is not imposing your faith on someone else. Boldness is speaking up when the opportunity shows up.