Acts 26

Paul in front of Agrippa makes for a fascinating scene. Imagine, if you will, what the room would have looked like. Inevitably, there would have been those Jews who were accusing Paul. These Jewish leaders would have been well known to Paul, as he was one of them. He testified to as much.

5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. Acts 26:5-6

He grew up in the faith, he excelled in the faith, and was of the most conservative and powerful leaders in the most conservative and powerful sections of the faith. Paul had all the credentials and all the receipts.

However, Paul was willing to give his testimony in pure and simple language. Essentially, his testimony is this: “God showed up, and I learned I was wrong.” This is how he frames his coming to Jesus. He was a persecutor, but he didn’t realize he was persecuting the wrong group. He was adamant, but God was more adamant. He was not only converted, but was recruited to be just as passionate about Jesus as he had ever been for the Law of Moses.

God was willing to use Paul’s passion, it just needed to be redirected.

Paul, in the 11th verse, says that he was “obsessed” with persecuting them, and even went to foreign cities. He was motivated by the idea that his faith and faith tradition needed to be kept pure, and that purity became an obsession that led to treating others that did not  agree with him as less than human. Paul was not the first one to fall into this trap, and he was certainly not the last.
But have you ever noticed that the most adamant and passionate among us can be redirected toward a more positive and beneficial goal?

Paul has always been an interesting character in that he lived out his passion with reckless abandon, and when his passion became Jesus, he was just as passionate about making sure that everyone around him knew who Jesus was as well. He approached the throne of God without fear, and truly, he was approaching the throne of Agrippa without fear as well. When you have given your life over to something greater than you, you begin to realize that you have nothing to fear from persecution or criticism, in fact, that might be a bellwether that you are making a difference in people’s lives.

What are you so passionate about that people can criticize you for it? Is it something that matters to the world -- to God? Or is it something that is a great way to pass the time.

I have always figured that Paul had very few hobbies. He was a man obsessed with making sure that everyone he met knew Jesus. But not just knew of Jesus, knew that Jesus did for them, how he loved them, and how much his sacrifice could mean for them. Paul didn’t respect culture or faith, as he knew that the only tie that could bind us all together as humans was the connection that comes from knowing Jesus.

Do we have a sense that this can still happen? It’s sometimes hard to believe when you have factions within the church fighting all the time. But I still believe -- and call it foolish optimism -- that if we keep Jesus central, and we keep Jesus as the apex of our faith, he will draw everyone to him.

So I guess our work is simple, to be as clear as Paul was in front of Agrippa. Who is your Agrippa today, and how will you testify to who Jesus is to you?

By Tim Gillespie

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