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.”
As we read on to the close of Acts 25, Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, have entered the judgment hall with Festus. The case is introduced in brief, as is Paul. Festus observes that Paul has appealed to Caesar’s judgment, but that Festus needs to send some sort of charges against Paul when he is sent to Caesar.
Festus again is portrayed in a positive light here. Of course, he makes himself the hero of the story. That’s to be expected. But what he is trying to accomplish is perfectly reasonable. He has a person who has been a prisoner for over two years. This prisoner is supposed to be sent to the head of state for judgment. But it seems unreasonable for someone who has been detained for two years without any substantive charges to be sent on to Caesar, still without charges. What should Festus do?
The only hope Festus has is that Agrippa might understand something or provoke some sort of statement which would give Festus a valid charge for which Paul can be tried. If this doesn’t happen, Festus will simply seem like an incompetent governor. He wants to avoid that at all costs.
Our world frequently fails to understand the heart of Christian values. We are frequently told that we need to change our values, that our ethics don’t matter, and that if we were enlightened we would agree with a secular state about anything and everything. Sadly, many Christians willingly comply with these demands. On the other hand, we can, like Paul, stand for the truth of the Gospel. It is a very specific thing. The idea that all humans are sinners in need of forgiveness, that we cannot earn our forgiveness, and that it is given freely by a God who becomes human and dies in our place - it all seems very foreign. If we are going to confess that it is all true, let’s go ahead and hold to that confession. Otherwise, let us depart from Christianity forever.
The apostle Paul was given many opportunities to compromise. He didn’t do so. He stood for the Gospel even though it cost him his life. We can do no less.
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