Saturday, October 3, 2015

#NT75 Day 27: Acts 23-28 Paul and the use of governmental rights

The book of Acts wraps up with Paul's defense of himself and journey to Rome.  He had always wanted to get to Rome and we see him there at the end of the book.  For what it's worth, tradition has it that he was beheaded there because of his faith.

Which brings me to my reflection about "rights."

The government has imbued us with certain rights, some of which certainly seem to be eroding, but provide us some legal protection nonetheless.  Paul had something similar.  As a Roman citizen, he made use of these on occasion to spare himself or his companions undue punishment.  And in today's reading, he made use of his right to appeal to Caesar (ch. 25) for his legal hearing.

It made sense.  If he was taken back to Jerusalem, he would be murdered by Jewish assassins.  Staying in Caesarea wasn't an option because Festus wasn't going to let him.  So an appeal to Caesar was made, and it got him to Rome.

Here's my reflection on that today (in light of our own situation, including this week's news):  Rights are good, but they aren't everything.

Religious freedom is good.  We should fight for it.  But it's no guarantee that Christians won't be persecuted or punished.  In fact, the Bible promises we will experience both, at least on some level.

The right to live freely and not die at the hands of a mad gunman is good.  But mad gunmen do target people of faith, in this week's case Christians.  And that's not to be unexpected.  Christians have died at the hands of others for centuries (Paul included) because of their faith.  And this is one of the tests we have to know if we believe that dying is gain, as Paul wrote.

Access to legal systems is good.  Paul appealed to Caesar.  But it also puts us squarely in the middle of that system.  Paul got to Rome, but not on his terms.

To be clear:  I like America.  I love our rights here, especially compared to other parts of the world.  But our rights are not ultimate.  God in His Kingdom is what you can call ultimate.  He is what finally and fully matters.

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