Friday, May 1. Acts 14:1-7.
Rioting in the streets. Violence. One ethnic group protesting against another. One group proclaiming that their lives matter, even in the face of racism and oppression. A divided city.
What city am I describing? Baltimore? Ferguson? Modern day Jerusalem? These cities definitely fit the bill. However, I am describing Iconium from our reading. Some things never change.
What got the city so violent? Here’s the scene. Paul and Barnabas enter the city and make a bold claim: Gentile lives matter. The good news is that God came in the flesh, through Jesus, and his death and resurrection opened up the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth…for ALL people. Gentiles could follow Jesus without becoming Jewish first. God loves everybody, regardless of race, religious background, or blood lines.
This is good news and the people responded positively at first. Who wouldn’t, right? Then it happened. A group of people who were convinced that they were better than everyone else–that they had a corner on God, that everyone had to conform to their way of knowing God–came into town and “raised up and poisoned (lit. turned evil) the souls of the people against” Paul and Barnabas.
You know the old expression: It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Now the city is divided. Some agree with Paul and Barnabas. Some hate Paul and Barnabas and think they deserve to die for their message.
How do Paul and Barnabas respond? Do they retaliate and launch a hate campaign of their own? Do they shut up and cower in fear? No. They just keep proclaiming the good news of God’s love for everyone and heal the sick and the hurting. They leave the consequences up to God.
Here’s the irony of the Gospel. Some people don’t want to hear about how God loves everyone. All lives matter to God. We, as people of the Gospel, are called to proclaim that message, no matter what. Be courageous today. Love boldly.