Sunday, June 5, 2011

Acts 18: Facing opposition alone

It's been a long time coming, but finally the break has come. Paul, who would give his very soul if only Israel could be saved, stands in the synagogue of Corinth, shakes out the dust from his clothing and gives up on directly evangelizing this antagonistic people group: "from now on I will go to the Gentiles". The rejection, the hatred is too much. The call of God has separated Paul from his ancestral, spiritual "mother" Israel. Hear his consolation from the Lord:

"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."

Did the attacks stop? No. Did Paul stop? "May it never be!" Did God keep his promise to provide friends for emotional, physical, and ministry support? Yes! Aquila and Priscilla work with him making tents. Appollos and others join him in ministry.

(Parenthetical thought question: why did Paul choose this line of menial work: Well, who needs tents? Pilgrims. Travelers. People fleeing pogroms. Every one a potential broadcaster of the gospel seed "unto to the ends of the earth." As Paul would later say, "all things work together for good for those who love God and called for His purpose." There's a reason why Christians and communists alike focus on the college campus. And speaking of tentmakers: there is a brother who reads this blog who is not only a carpenter AND a tentmaker but who also lives alone on an island from which he shares his insights [dare I call them Revelations?] with the brethren. His name is not John.)

God's comfort to Paul reminds me of His comfort to Elijah, who complains in I Kings 19, "I am the only one left." God responds: thousands have not bowed to Baal; kings will abolish Baal worship; Elisha will join him in ministry. "And as the Lord spake, it came to pass....." As Father's Day and other family-related annual landmarks come and go, it is easy for me to feel like "I am the only one left." As predicted in all of the grief books, there has been a subtle but real realignment in friendships and relationships, sometimes painful to discover. Thank you to Joanne Carter for finding me a copy of "Facing Loneliness," by J. Oswald Sanders, the great Christian preacher and writer who lost his wife and was a widower for 18 years. And thank you too, to the God Who Sees for his kind intervention in the lives of my brothers Elijah and Paul as recorded in scripture and in the lives of countless brothers and sisters before and since.

I am also beginning to think of some creative ways for other unmarried Christians to spend edifying, enjoyable time together in groups, hopefully without the matchmaking awkwardness.

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