How and when to engage in the worlds battles. We are to be a people separated. To know when to engage in the battles around us takes a great deal of wisdom. Those from the political right and the political left want to drag us in to their battles. The world ever rages around us. What are some of the ways that the world rages around us, they all ultimately have to do with power.
Genesis 14 contains an account of this first and great war of the Valley of Siddom, as a continuing example of a great theme of Genesis: that the inhabitants of the world, having severed their ties with their Creator, rage against one another in cycles of violence and oppression. Chapter 13 ends with Abram settling by the oaks of Mamre, peaceful in worship, and we will find halfway through this chapter that Abram is living a life of peace and prosperity so that his household has continued to expand, yet during this period of peace in Abram’s life, the world is raging around him.
While there is only one formal trial described in this chapter, there are actually two men on trial here. In the first half of the chapter, Paul is on trial before Felix, the governor of Judea. In the second half of this chapter, it is Felix himself who is on trial, but not before Paul, before the supreme judge of the universe. As we look carefully at these two trials, we will see the difference in how the world accuses and the spirit convicts.
It’s been said that we live in an age of outrage. Author Mark Manson writes:
Outrage is everywhere today, on the political left and right, with old people and young people, people of all races and economic backgrounds. We may live in the first period of human history where every demographic feels that they are somehow being violated and victimized. From the wealthy billionaires who have somehow convinced themselves that their 15% tax burden is simply oppressive. To the college kids who hijack stages and scream threats at people because their political views differ from their own.
Most people believe that people are becoming more polarized. According to the data, this is actually not true. People’s political beliefs are not that different than they were a few decades ago. What is changing, the data indicates, is how we deal with the viewpoints that make us uncomfortable.
It isn’t that our beliefs have changed, it’s that the way we feel about people we disagree with has changed. In short, people have become less tolerant of opposing opinions. And their reactions to those opinions has become more emotional and outrageous.
The era in which the New Testament was written has been referred to as one of these ages of outrage. Political tensions were extremely high in Palestine, and in its principle city, Jerusalem. And in Acts 21, the Apostle Paul returns to Jerusalem, led there by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who has all along been preparing Paul that suffering and imprisonment will await him there. And in verse 17, Paul enters Jerusalem, steps into the tinderbox, and yes, is greeted by outrage. Not at first, and not by everyone, but by the end of this chapter, he is engulfed in it.
Our culture seems to think that choosing a religion is like shopping. I look for the shirt that suits me, you look good in that one. And we go around flattering each others wardrobe, and it would be absurd to say “Plaid is the Only Way”. But choosing a religion is not like shopping. Choosing a religion is more like drowning. For a person drowning, when they are thrown a life preserver, they do not ask whether or not this suits them, they hold on because its all that they’ve got. They hold on and live, or let go and die. We’re not shopping for gods, were drowning in gods, drowning in a sea of religions, drowning in a sea of world views, nothing solid under our feet, nothing holding the universe together, and Jesus jumps in to save us. And so we point to Him not as a fashionable sweater, but as the life preserver thrown into this world to save us. For the bad news is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and therefore stand condemned under his wrath, but God offers forgiveness of sins to everyone who calls upon Him.