Acts 21:17-36 — Misunderstood

It’s interesting to me that while Paul was trying to clear up a misunderstanding between the Jewish Christians and himself, he caused another misunderstanding in the process.

Apparently, the Jews, both Christian and non-Christian, were under the impression that Paul taught that if you were a Jew, you should just abandon the law of Moses completely.  And so James and the other church elders suggested he take a Jewish vow along with some other Jewish Christians who had done so and to pay their expenses so that their heads could be shaved.  (They had perhaps taken a Nazirite vow as described in Numbers 6).

Paul assented.  Some commentators claim this was a mistake, that Paul should not have compromised in this way.  It’s hard to make a definitive statement on this, but my guess is that he didn’t.  That rather, he was becoming as a Jew to save the Jews (I Corinthians 9:19-23).

Mistake or not, while it may have helped his standing among the Jewish Christians, he was still accused by the other Jews of not only teaching against the law of Moses, but of defiling the temple by bringing a Gentile into it.  (Paul never did, but they made that assumption based on seeing him hang around with an Ephesian in Jerusalem).

The point is that when you follow Christ and do the things he’s called you to, you are always in a position where you could be misunderstood.  You can be misunderstood by people inside the church, or even outside the church.  And regardless of what you say or do to clear up the misunderstandings, some people simply will not understand you.

So what can you do?

Keep following Christ.  Keep doing the things you feel he’s asked you to do.  That’s really all any of us can do.  And leave the judgments up to him.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t take a close look at our own actions.  Maybe the criticisms made of us are completely without basis.  But maybe, just maybe, there’s something in those criticisms that we need to take a closer look at.  So take a look at your actions and motives.  Then act according to what you feel God is telling you.  But in the end, take the attitude of Paul himself who said,

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.  At that time each will receive their praise from God.  (I Corinthians 4:3-5)

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About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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