When we read Paul’s story we often read words like, “sharp dispute” (15:2), and “sharp disagreement” (15:39. We see him unjustly imprisoned and beaten (16:16ff). Life isn’t always smooth when you are passionate about Jesus.
Maybe you are facing opposition because of your faith. You might be experiencing prejudice and unfair treatment because of your relationship with Jesus. I hope you are because that means, if you are truly acting and speaking in obedience to God’s leading, you aren’t just satisfied with hoarding what God has given you. It means you are out there making disciples. I think Paul has something to say to us about how to handle opposition toward us who share the Gospel.
In the first case I sited above, Paul went to the elders of the church when he found himself in disagreement with some of the fellowship. They discussed both sides of the issue, and the result ended up encouraging and strengthening the people involved.
Is there an issue within your fellowship that has you at odds with someone? Then go to the elders. Look for a solution that will glorify God, and encourage and strengthen other believers.
In the second situation, Paul and Barnabas parted company. I think that is a sad end to a dispute, but might be necessary if an agreement can’t be made. But here is what I notice about this in Paul’s story. Neither man stopped sharing Jesus. In fact, God used their split to bless two missionary teams instead of the one. I believe if God is in it, He can bring something good out of every situation. (We will find out later that fences were mended. It can happen with you, too.)
And when Paul and Silas were in prison for healing a girl, they demonstrated Godly character even then. While the men were praying and singing praises to God in the middle of the night, the prison doors flew open and their chains fell off. But Paul didn’t run. He didn’t kill the sleeping guard. He stayed right where he was, in order to face those who had put him in prison.
Even when he faced his captors, he did it without malice. He didn’t rant and rave about how unfair it all was. Paul didn’t pray that God would zap them and give them what they’d given him. He simply showed them they were the guilty ones.
Sometimes I think because Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, and to love one another, we interpret that as not making waves. Paul was a wave maker. But in the situations I see in these chapters in Acts, he faced opposition without sinning. He didn’t stoop to their level. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he didn’t back down, either.
So today, I want to make some waves. If God gives me opportunity, may I make someone uncomfortable in their sin, in order to point them to the Savior. May I stand up for God if someone speaks against Him. I want to turn the other cheek without cowering, and face my opposition with the same strength Paul demonstrated, empowered by the same God Who empowered Paul.
I don’t want to be satisfied with smooth sailing. I want to be a wave maker, and do it for the glory of God.