During an election year, it is easy to get bewildered and discouraged by the politicking that fills the airwaves and clogs up the Internet. We watch in wonder as world leaders behave like children and street thugs, bullying each other, throwing around money, and allowing cruelty and injustice to go unchecked.
What do we do about it? How should followers of Jesus respond? My devo reading today reminded me of the answer to that question.
Our readings in the Journey have switched from the Gospel of John to the book of Acts. Today I read Acts 4. Peter and John healed a man in chapter 3. He was was born crippled and had spent his forty years sitting by the Gate called Beautiful, begging for money. Every day the people of Jerusalem would walk by the “poor cripple” and maybe throw him a token coin from time to time. He was part of the scenery and generally unnoticed.
Then Peter and John show up. They are followers of Jesus. They had walked with Jesus, seen how he treated people, watched him be arrested, falsely condemned, executed, and risen from the dead. They had been filled with God’s Spirit in a way that they had never experienced before. They had new eyes.
When they walked past the cripple this time (for they had walked past him their entire life), something was different.
They saw him.
“Help me,” he cried out, as he always did.
“We have nothing to give you,” they replied, “but, in the name of Jesus, we offer you healing.”
The man popped up on his feet. He was healed.
You can imagine the commotion this caused in town. Jerusalem was a small and densely packed city, and the news spread like wild fire.
Chapter four begins with the religious leaders dragging Peter and John into court to figure out what happened.
Here’s where we get to the heart of my opening question. How did Peter and John deal with a corrupt and power-hungry political system?
They simply did the work of God’s Kingdom, which was to bring healing to the sick, to “see” people and touch them in the name of Jesus. Then, when asked by what authority they do these things, to boldly proclaim the true name by which all Heaven breaks loose on the earth.
Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’ Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one. (Acts 4:8-12 The Message)”
We must be careful how we treat the word salvation in this passage. This is not the individualistic ticket-out-of-Hell salvation. This is the kind of salvation that the religious leaders, and all people of Israel were seeking. It is salvation from the oppression of the Romans. It is salvation from the pain and suffering in the world that comes from hatred and fear that leads to violence and death. It is freedom from Sin and Death itself.
The religious leaders of that day, and, I think, the political leaders of our day, had been lulled into thinking that salvation comes through military power, hierarchical power structures, political maneuvering, and sin management.
Peter and John expose the stark and simple contrast of the Good News. The way to bring salvation to the world is to “see” the cripple and bring healing to him. This is the name of Jesus. This is the way of Jesus in the world. God revealed Godself, not in power and might, not in riches and politics, but in the human flesh of a man from Nazareth who healed the sick, fed the hungry, and “saw” everyone as equally valid in the eyes of God.
How do we bring down corrupt political systems? We simply do the work of salvation, in the name of Jesus, and boldly proclaim it when asked why we do it. We demonstrate with our lives that everyone matters to God. We stand with the oppressed and speak truth to power, come what may.
I have been humbled and convicted today, as I read again of Peter and John’s bold witness to the name of Jesus. I confess that I am rarely that bold or filled with the Spirit’s power. May this coming Holy Week, celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, and the movement toward Pentecost, bring us all a fresh wind of the Spirit’s boldness to proclaim, in word and deed, the Good News of Jesus for the sake of the world.