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.”
When the apostle Paul has his trial in Acts 24, it’ quite interesting to see what the charges are. Taking a quick look at the text we see that the lawyer praises the governor. This is always a good idea. The charge goes on to say in verse 5 that Paul is a “blight” or “disease.” He is “stirring up controversies.” He is pursuing the heresy of the Nazarenes. Finally, in verse 6 he has defiled the temple. The last charge is the only one which is clearly a crime, and it is patently one of which Paul is not guilty. Yet the lawyer asks the governor to go ahead and investigate Paul. He will certainly find out that Paul is exactly the kind of person who should be imprisoned or killed.
We notice that the fact really don’t have any bearing on this case. The desire is for a judgment, a forceful and quick judgment. The prosecution has brought all the evidence they wish to bring.
That’s the same sad state of affairs we often see in today’s world. Based on bumper-sticker size assertions we are expected to make judgment and proclaim anyone who doesn’t fit into a preconceived box of notions as a heretic, someone who is dangerous, and who needs to be done away with. Data doesn’t matter. Integrity seems to be a completely foreign concept. Actually listening to evidence doesn’t cross our minds. We find ourselves in an echo chamber which is deafening.
What’s the solution? As in the first century, so today, we need to stop, think, hear and see evidence, and weigh the truth claims all around us. Then and only then can we come to a reasoned understanding of our world.
What will happen if Paul is treated fairly? He will not be convicted. Being a “blight” is not illegal. There are plenty of controversies which are not harmful. Some are even beneficial. If the doctrines of the Nazarenes are carefully examined they will be found to agree with historic Jewish faith and practice. And Paul never took a Gentile into the temple. There’s no case.
The solution, of course, was to try not to treat Paul fairly. Thankfully, there was still some concept of fair play in the world. Maybe there still is. Let’s go find it.
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