Acts 23:14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, "We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul.
Men do stupid things, especially when religious fanaticism is involved. A lot of the unrest that we know in the world today is caused by males who swear oaths and wreak havoc all over the planet. Wicked and evil acts are justified because they are undertaken in God’s Name. Inhumanity and fanaticism are called holiness and faithfulness, whereas in reality they are religious excuses for creating horror and fear. Those who teach young people to grow up hating and call it ‘being faithful’ are the biggest blasphemers in the world today. Jesus would not participate in anything remotely connected to spiteful religion. He called upon and challenged His followers to do the exact opposite. “Love your enemies,” is what He specifically taught.
I wonder what happened to those forty men, mentioned in Acts 23, who religiously vowed not to eat until they had killed Paul. When he escaped their plot, did they all die of hunger two months later? Did their anger and bitterness against Paul continue to relentlessly feed their fanaticism? Somehow I suspect that most of them slunk away in humiliation and cried into their first bowl of soup. There’s a good old-fashioned Scottish word for people like that: eejits.
We all have one life to live on a small solitary life-filled planet. Self-righteous religion is something that the world needs to address and be rid of by the end of this century. As Christians, if we listen more to Christ and apply His ways, we might yet convince the world that His peaceable Kingdom can actually be fulfilled on Earth. Perhaps if we stopped fighting one another, we might even begin to see this in the Church first, and then in the rest of the world.
Questions for personal reflection
Where is religious fanaticism destroying people’s lives in the world today? How can we oppose this effectively and peacefully?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we have all failed to live by Your teachings. We are sorry for our part in making the world a bitter place. Help us to look deep inside of ourselves and see where we are feeding hostility, resentment, and discord in our lives. Teach us to be truly faithful instead of being religiously right. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s drawings called ‘Face to Face.’ It’s made up of the skin colors of people all over the world and the faces merge into one another signifying dialogue, intimacy, and peace. It was used earlier this year as a logo for a national conference in the Philippines dealing with tolerance. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2267/2503232332_7491c708d1_b.jpg