The fickle love of the world. - The faithful love of God.
Acts 14:8-28 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” 12 And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.
19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
24 They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. 25 When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27 When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they spent a long time with the disciples.
In today’s text we see how quickly public opinion can change. It says: When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. Then it says: But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. This is not unlike what we see with Jesus Himself, who at the triumphal entry came into Jerusalem with: crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” Then less than a week later those same crowds were shouting: “Crucify Him!” Crucify Him!” Today’s text gives us an understanding of why things changed so quickly. The people thought that Paul and Barnabus were gods. They thought it was Paul who performed the miracle of healing. The reality is that it was Jesus. It was the power of Christ working with and through Paul. It was also Jesus who those that came hated. In John 15:18-25 Jesus Himself says: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’”
We then, should be more concerned if there are not those in the world who hate us, even if it is without cause. In John 3:16-21 Jesus says: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begottenSon, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Let me just say, I find it sad and ironic, that those few words about the love of God can elicit so much anger and hatred from people. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.And this is the condemnation,that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.Foreveryone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have beendone in God.” As it was with Jesus and as it was with Paul, men loved darkness rather than light; it remains that way for us also. In John 8:12 Jesus says: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” In Matthew 5:14-16, He says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” If we are doing what Jesus says, if we are being light to the world, if we are showing and shining the light of Christ, the world will hate us. The world will tolerate and embrace, even love what is illicit, but the love and light of Christ will elicit its hate.
What should we do? What should our response be? 1 John 2:15 says: Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. James 4:4 says: You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. We should not relent in our efforts to shine the light of Christ in and to the world. We should not compromise and tolerate, embrace or love the things of the world. Our response to the hatred that we will receive because we are being like Christ should be as Jesus says in Matthew 5:44: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” We should know that, like Jesus, they will hate us without cause, because, men loved darkness rather than light. It is not important that we have the love of the world. That should not be our goal or our desire. What is important is that they know the love of God, that they see the light of Christ. Regardless that they should curse us or persecute us, regardless that they spitefully use us, even when they hate us without cause, we should shine the light of Christ, demonstrate the love of God, we should pray for them and bless them. Like Jesus Himself, who in the midst of receiving the brunt of the hatred of people, on the cross, said: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, regardless of the opinion of people, even if they hate me without cause, because You first loved me and demonstrated that love, that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me, may I shine the light of Christ that the world would know the love of God, that You so loved the world that You sent Jesus to die for their sins. Amen.