14:1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. 7 And they were preaching the gospel there.
The more things change the more they stay the same. Paul and Barnabas changed cities but the circumstances didn't change. Every time it happens again though I shake my head. The greatest resistance to Jesus is never from idol worshippers or atheists. It is always from the very ones who should have been ready and waiting for Him. To even mention Him among His own people caused instant division. That divide was not a simple difference of opinion or even an awkward cold war of silence. It seemed to always lead to murderous intent. These are the "chosen ones". These are they who held the Sacred stone tablets inside the box made of wood and overlaid with gold. On those tablets are words inscribed by God. Four of those words are "You will not kill". The irony is hard to miss. Their religious fervor and insistence on protecting their turf lead them to violate the very Words they professed to be upholding and guarding.
How is it with us? Do we ever become so passionate, so obsessed about something we believe to be right that we violate our core principles over it? In my zeal to teach my children "respect", do I disrespect them? In "discussions" with my wife and other family members does my passion to be right or prove my point trump basic kindness?
The slope gets slippery from there. History and the Bible both teach that what has gone around comes around again. God raised up the Jewish nation from nothing and placed them at the crossroads of the world to be a light. He gave them principles to live by that were higher, better, and more noble than the nations around them. Had they held onto and developed those principles they would have drawn the nations and been a positive influence on the world. It began to happen during Solomon’s reign but the wheels fell off after that. The descent was so steep that in the end they murdered their own Messiah in a cold and calculated way after several missed attempts. Now in Acts the hunt continues. To the blood of Jesus has been added the blood of Stephen, James, and who knows how many others.
Could this happen to us? Could the nations of the west built on freedom and justice for all become more cruel than the nations of the world? Could misguided passion turn us into that which we profess to be against? Could our code of ethics and morality be sacrificed on the altar of self-preservation at any and all costs?
Many Jews became believers and the rest became murderers. The contrast is stark. Will history repeat itself?
Observation tells me the tide is already turning...