Continuing yesterday’s thoughts. This bit is more religious but it is good stuff I think so you pays your money and you takes your choice. As I think I said in Part One, I was watching a docudrama about the time just after the Resurrection. Docudramas are not always necessarily a “good thing” I think. However, this was ok as Tom Cruise was not playing Jesus nor was Brad Pitt playing Peter and no one had a Hollywood root perm.
I was watching as Peter and the other Jewish followers tentatively stepped out into what was called “The Way” as they began to live as if the Kingdom of God was already here. At first it was all sweetness and light as they were considered slightly funny but then things began to change. The Bible isn’t specific about what turned people against them. Some scholars think it was the Day of Pentecost. Some, the forces unleashed by the death of Stephen. Some think it was because they were so popular that powerful people began to feel threatened but the tide of public opinion certainly seemed to turn.
I think that I am sometimes guilty of “Hollywooding” Biblical christian persecution. I think I subconsciously think that because Stephen went to his death seemingly serenely, that it wasn’t so bad really. Watching a representation of the reality makes you wake up a bit. Most people didn’t go quietly to the horror of a stoning. They struck out and fought and dug their feet into the ground in a futile attempt to stop it as they were dragged outside the city walls. People lived in fear of a night-time knock on the door which would lead to a short trial and a condemnation. The threat of a crucifixion for both men and women was a constant terror, as the Romans intended it to be, and the small community scattered, leaving just the original disciples.
I wondered what that must have felt like, to see your dreams of this Christian kingdom shattered so completely. There must have been doubts creeping in. Now you may say that you never doubt but if you do say that, I fear you may be a cad and a charlatan *takes off glove and hits you gently on the cheek to demand satisfaction* I doubt about 20 times a day – before breakfast. But even in this most catastrophic of situations the disciples would see that God wan’t going to change what was happening but that what was happening seemed to be part of the plan. Firstly, when the church was scattered, they didn’t leave the gospel behind. They took it with them. They settled into lives and continued to live in “The Way” And the most important message in history had found a way to push out of its boundaries.
Then, the church receives one of those decision cards back and it has been filled in. You know the kind of thing. Left on the end of pews for children to doodle on and we get the shock of our lives when a genuine one has actually been completed.
“I am very interested in learning more about your church with a view to joining it…..signed ..Saul of Tarsus.”
Arrrgh! Are you joking God? Our biggest persecutor? The man who has taken all our troubles to a new level of horror almost single handed? Yet this was the man who God would use to take the church to the next level of love and productivity. He was their biggest problem but would become their biggest earthly asset.
Now I’m never too sure about the school of thought that says that God sends horrible things to make us strong. However, in “this ever changing world in which we’re living” (Acknowledgement :Scientifically Proven Best Beatle) where all sorts of powers and pressures and principalities are at work, life IS full of horrible things. Things that make you doubt that there is a way out of this.
It is very encouraging, therefore, to see that God can miraculously use the very disasters that are smacking us over the head to change our circumstances. Please get what I am saying here. God doesn’t always take the things that trouble us away, and I don’t just mean that they pass and then we feel stronger because we managed to live through it – although there is some value in that certainly. I mean that he actually changes things – using all the things that are happening to us – good or bad. And maybe – just maybe, we will look back on something insurmountable that is going on at the moment and realise that, not only did God miraculously intervene but he did so using the very thing that was causing the problem. *Wanders off pondering the massiveness of God.*
God can do anything you know-far more than you could ever guess or imagine or request in your wildest dreams.