The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
Acts 21:37-40 illustrates the difference between the abilities of the civil authorities and the churchly leaders. The apostle Paul has been arrested in a conflict which could have seen him mobbed and killed. He was being led into the barracks, where he would be under guard. The arresting officers had no clear idea who he was.
Paul asked to speak to the crowd. This surprised the officers. They had assumed he was a revolutionary who had caused a rebellion some time previously. However, he told them who he was, where he was from, and asked to address the crowd.
The civil authorities had nothing to tell the crowd. They had arrested the man at the center of a tumult. Aside from that, they had no announcement. It was through their actions that they would appease the people. This is often the role of civil authorities. When we look for a mayor, we look for someone who can deal with the political interests of our community. When we look for a police chief, we look for someone who can deal with law enforcement. We are not looking for a philosopher who can make everyone feel good. It is often said of the United States president that he is not a pastor-in-chief but a commander-in-chief of the military forces. There’s considerable truth to this.
The apostle Paul was not one of the civil authorities. He was given permission to speak to the crowd, and he did so. The people actually quieted down and listened to what he had to say. This is a response which the civil authorities could not have hoped for.
Do Christians have something to say to our culture? Yes, indeed. And as people who have worked with millennia of cultural situations and human interactions, we ought to have a well informed opinion. As people who have spearheaded the whole idea of human rights, care for the needy, and the importance of legal and moral customes we should be well equipped to give thoughtful responses to the troubles of our time. May it ever happen. Maybe, just maybe, some people will stop screaming and hear some evidence.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.