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Monday, August 12, 2013
Today’s Reading | Acts 20:17–38
From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. When they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus. And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.
“And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship. (NRSV)
Being a Christian wasn’t easy for Paul and the earliest Christians. We get a very real sense of that from this passage. Paul knows that he is bound to experience imprisonment and persecution—and ultimately death—because of his faith. The tears shared in this encounter with the elders of Ephesus bear witness to the risk each of these Christian leaders assumes.
It’s hard for Christians in the United States today to appreciate the danger and pathos of this kind of faith. Though some like to portray Christians as a persecuted minority, such posturing strains credulity. It may in fact be the case that Christianity is losing relevance or respect in our culture, but Christians are rarely on the receiving end of persecution in our context.
Of course, there are places in the world in which it truly is dangerous to be a Christian. There are places in which the church is under attack. Those of us who practice our faith in places of privilege and security should remember these brave sisters and brothers and do what we can to support them—not in the spirit of Christian triumphalism but in the hope that all people might be able to practice their faith in freedom and peace.
God of all people, attune my heart to the struggles, risks, and dangers that some of my Christian sisters and brothers face each day and show me ways that I can stand in solidarity with them. Amen.
Written by John W. Vest, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
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