When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, "Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place." (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)
Thoughts for Today:Previously, Paul had compromised to a certain degree his values by participating in a Jewish ritual, specifically taking a seven day vow of purification. He did this in humble submission to the Jerusalem church, which thought it would avoid the type of confrontation he was about to experience in our passage today.
Many times our friends, mentors, even leaders offer suggestions in areas that we might attempt a compromise in order to avoid conflict as well. But sometimes confrontation is completely unavoidable -- especially when dealing with highly charged emotional issues, or simply preserving personal integrity. And it happens throughout our lives.
For example, my youngest daughter Amanda (who is in first grade) has a particularly challenging situation on her hands. It seems one of her classmates is both "mean" and "rude." The back story is quite complicated: The girl's parents are going through a divorce, there is a lot of arguing, her mother is an alcoholic, she is currently living with her aunt, and she is emotionally being torn apart. It's a very sad situation, one in which we, as parents of Amanda, have little control.
For Amanda it has been a really good teaching and learning example. Sometimes people just aren't nice and they don't behave the way we think they should no matter how kind, friendly and polite we are. I won't bother you with the all details of parenting a first grader, but there are some similarities to our passage today and Paul's example and predicament:
1. Limit your compromise to an acceptable level.
2. Do everything with the love of Jesus in your heart.
3. Understand the source of the conflict is really not you -- so don't take it personally.
4. Don't be surprised when no matter what you do it doesn't work out well.
5. Stay in a spirit of forgiveness and learn to walk away before disagreement turns into anger, and anger into violence (which is not necessarily an issue in the first grade).
Questions to Ponder:Of the five areas listed above which do you have the most difficulty with? A lot of people allow themselves to compromise far past their core beliefs hoping to avoid a conflict. Others get hurt emotionally because they take any conflict or disagreement personally. Still others have never learned how and when to walk away in a spirit of forgiveness, before things get ugly. Which area do you have the most difficulty in? More than one that is hard for you? Look to Paul's example. How can you be different? What can you do today to respond God's way?