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Acts 21:37-22:5, Paul Defends Himself

Thursday, May 3

Common Ground

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

 common ground

Paul's in trouble. The Jews in Jerusalem believed that Paul had encouraged Jews not to follow the laws of Moses. Blasphemous! But in fact, Paul had discouraged Gentiles (non-Jews) from following Jewish rites and rituals as a prerequisite to following Christ. He knew Gentiles would be better suited to Christianity if they followed Christ's ways and did not try to convert to Judaism. Still, the Jews were angry with him and he was now arrested and facing judgment.

Paul knew that he could gain their trust if he just had the opportunity to speak with them. And so he did. First, when they heard him speaking Hebrew, they were forced to acknowledge that they didn't know everything about him like they thought -- he was one of them. Second, he admitted that he was among the persecutors of Christians for a long time before he came to know and love Christ. By tapping into the thing they had in common, he opened them up to learning about the things they did not yet have in common.

We can learn a lot from Paul and how he went about conducting his business. By focusing on what they had in common, he helped them let down their guard. In his case, his being Jewish was what drew them to him. When we engage in conversations with people who are different from us, a good place to start is to discover the things we have in common. It might be our heritage. It might be our personal preferences -- foods, movies, music, seasons, anything at all! We might find we align politically. By finding common ground, we remember that we are all human, and that we are not as different (and not at odds) as we might think.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 21:37-22:5

Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” The tribune replied, “Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

”Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense that I now make before you.” When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet. Then he said:

”I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment."