13:13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”
This Antioch is not to be confused with the previous Antioch where believers were first called Christians and where Paul and Barnabas were sent from after praying and fasting and seeking the Lord's direction. This is a different city entirely and quite a bit smaller. You will note that on the way there John Mark goes home. We are not told why.
What we are told is that when Paul and Barnabas arrive they go to the synagogue. This point is becoming a theme. Synagogues are the equivalent of churches today in our culture. It was the place where Jews gathered for weekly worship. Paul and Barnabas are Christians. Why are they going into Jewish churches? Is there a lesson here for us? Not only do they go to the Synagogue to worship but they are asked to speak. Why?
I know many people in my church who firmly believe we should never enter even a Christian church of another denomination. I know a church that nearly split and a pastor who was run out of town for even suggesting a pastor from another church be invited to speak in his church about how they could work together in supporting the food bank and the poor in the city. Meetings were held. Tempers flared. Some members vowed to never return to church if the plans to have this "gentile preacher" went ahead.
Yet in the Book we call the Holy Bible, Paul and Barnabas purposely and deliberately went to worship in the synagogue, a place that supported the idea Jesus was not even the Messiah, a place that belonged to the religious system that hunted and killed Christians! Are Paul and Barnabas heretics? Are they playing both sides? Are they fakes? What is going on?
Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples before He returned to heaven? He said "Go!". Go where? Into the whole world. The entire world. All of it. He also said crazy things like "love your enemies". The reason why Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogues was simple. They were going into all the world. They were placing themselves in a position to be able to connect with those who didn't yet know Jesus. By being willing to go, they were asked to speak. God was working because they were willing. Were they asked to speak because their reputation had preceded them? Maybe. We're they asked to speak because the worship leader just felt impressed to ask these visitors what they had to say? Perhaps. We aren't told why it happened. We are just told that it did happen and it could not have happened if they hadn't been there.
Are we contributing to building walls or bridges? Are we emphasizing what makes us different and building bunkers to keep ourselves untainted or are we seeking out what we have in common and reaching out to bridge the gap?
We can call ourselves Christians. We can call ourselves followers of Jesus. We can even call ourselves "The remnant". I could call myself an elephant too I suppose but would that make me one? When was the last time we left our turf, our comfort zone, our box, and went to seek out someone in a different box? Perhaps if we "christians" had been as passionate about going as Paul and Barnabas were the Muslim world would be more open to us than they currently are. Perhaps China would be a different place. Perhaps North Korea too. Perhaps our "own people" would be far less selfish than we have become and far more fervent and recognizable as followers of Jesus.
Is there a church close to your home? A mosque? A place where people gather to seek a better understanding of their Creator? Perhaps you should drop by. I plan to start "Going" more often. Will you join me? Will you follow the example of Jesus and His true followers?