No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The people had heard that Paul had betrayed them and was teaching against the law of Moses and against the traditions, so the elders of the church in Jerusalem asked Paul to perform purification rites so that everyone could see that he was still a Jew and following the ways of the Jews.

Paul agrees to this, and even agrees to do the same with four other men, paying their expenses as well so that there wouldn’t be any doubt whatsoever about who he is and what his intentions are. Paul doesn’t want any of the Jews to stumble in their faith because of who he is, so he goes out of his way in his intent to show the people that he does live for Christ with the heritage of a Jew, especially there in Jerusalem, in the heart of Judaism.

But unfortunately, you can’t make everyone happy, and people will frequently go on what they think is right instead of what they know to be true and some Jews from the province of Asia start making untrue accusations against Paul and his treatment of the temple (wow, does that sound familiar?), saying that he had brought a Greek inside, when in fact, they didn’t know that to actually be the case.

When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

Acts 21:27-29

Paul ends up being beaten, arrested, and taken away by the Roman soldiers despite being innocent of everything that he was charged with. Once again, it is as if history is repeating itself. Jesus had experienced this same thing in this same city, and now Paul was following his Master and King, going through very similar things to what Jesus had experienced.

We shouldn’t expect differently, even today. People very frequently act upon their emotions instead of understanding the reality of situations. So we should probably take a couple of different lessons:

First, spiritual realities run near and dear to our hearts, so we should know that, as we speak about Jesus with others, as we speak of the one who had to come to reestablish his Kingdom here in the world, who came to save us so that we could enter his Kingdom, we should expect that we will be running up against, and close to their emotions. We can expect blowback. We can expect emotional responses. And we must be able to speak truth in love in the midst of those responses.

And second, we should also closely and carefully examine what is being said by others. Does it align with the word of God? Or no? Beyond our emotions, we must know that we may not know everything. We can learn and grow. There are many things that we may not have understood up to now. Personally, I learned the overall plan and mission of God after having been in the church for almost 30 years. No one had ever explained it to me, and when I understood it, it changed everything for me. In some ways, that experience helps me understand what the Jews were going through. They were, in that very moment, seeing the fulfillment and the result of Judaism. Their entire way of life was being fulfilled as part of God’s plan, but they couldn’t understand it. They were spiritually blind and deaf.

I pray that we don’t make the same mistake.

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