Read: Acts 13:4-52
The following week almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach the word of the Lord. But when some of the Jews saw the crowds, they were jealous… Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. Acts 13:44-45
In those days, Judaism was the established foundation for following Jesus. The Jewish people understood the foundation that Christianity was built on and that the Messiah was coming. It was just a matter of convincing them that Jesus was the one they were looking for.
As the established religious system, they were threatened by Paul and Barnabas reaching well beyond the Jewish community. They brought in people who didn’t understand or practice their traditions. It was getting messy, so to speak, because Paul and Barnabas understood that Jesus was for everybody, not just the religious people. And everybody was showing up.
When everybody starts showing up and becoming followers of Jesus, the religious establishment does their best to stop it.
This dynamic is still at play today. Not so much between Judaism and Christianity, but between established Christian movements or generations, and new ones that are effectively reaching lots of people with the Gospel.
Jealousy is still a factor, and you will hear comments like, “that kind of music doesn’t honor God,” or “their informal dress dishonors God,” or “they water down the message to get lots of people,” or “they don’t focus enough on what we think needs to be focused on”, or “look at all the sinners that are gathering there,” and I could go on and on and on and on.
We all run the risk of jealousy, of digging in on the way we’ve always done things and spiritualizing our attacks on others who are reaching people for Christ.
Can I just say… no shout… it’s ugly!!! It’s hurtful!!! It’s not Christ-like!!! And in the end you find yourself opposing God while convincing yourself and your small band of followers that you’re right and they’re wrong. In the end, it’s jealousy masked as theological correctness. Don’t do it and when you see others who are doing it… call it what it is.
I’m not saying that we throw proper doctrine to the wind. I’m not saying good theology isn’t important. What I am saying is that, motivated by jealousy, many people use non-essential theological arguments as clubs against good-hearted, God-ordained ministries, or turn their stylistic preferences into theological standards and use them as clubs.
Paul and Barnabas not only pushed the boundaries of how they spread the Good News, but the boundaries of who they were willing to reach. What a powerful example for the 21st century church, for we should be doing the same …
Lord, thanks for creating, calling, and commissioning me to be a part of your mission in the world. Help me to think outside the box, and keep my heart free from jealousy. In Jesus’ name, amen.