In today's devotion Justin Welby continues to look at how we cope with danger, reflecting on Paul's trip to Rome
The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. 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. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here."
But when the son of Paul's sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, "Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him." So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you. The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, "What is it you want to tell me?"
He said, "The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don't give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request." The commander dismissed the young man and cautioned him, Don't tell anyone that you have reported this to me.
Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix. (Acts 23:12 - 24)
Someone in one of the African countries I visited was once paid to kill me, or so I was told. The price was $30. My colleague at the time was Canon Andrew White, now in Baghdad, and the price on his head in the Middle East was $250,000. That put me in my place! I did take the threat seriously, however, and left the area quite promptly. Plots to kill and long-term illnesses that are threatening but not critical are all of a kind. They provide tension but not a rush of adrenalin. In such cases, the victim or sufferer knows that the outcome could be fatal or could be managed, and the question is always 'What should I do? What is the spiritual way to act?'
Paul does the humanly obvious: he goes straight to the Roman authorities and tells them of the threat to his life, and they act. He is taken with a very heavy escort on his journey north. Danger is not always to be faced fearlessly and without evasive action; this approach may sound brave but it is insane. Luke tells this story not to spice up the chapter with a bit of cloak-and-dagger stuff, but for a number of good reasons. It shows the providence of God, as Paul discovered. It shows the official attitude of the Romans—not unjust in this case and not instinctively anti-Christian (Theophilus, the person for whom Acts was written, needed to know that)—and it shows Paul as a man who is wise, not a troublemaker.
Courage alone easily becomes reckless, but courage with wisdom is a Christian response. Life and safety are not to be thrown away. If your boss at work is out to ridicule you because of your Christian belief, be wise, not provocative. If someone is looking for a fight in a pub or club, as often as not, the best solution is to be somewhere else as quickly as possible. If you have a serious illness that threatens your life, pray fer- vently and seek medical help properly. Simple confrontation of danger is sometimes necessary, but only when it is also wise.
Taken from Guidelines published by Bible Reading Fellowship. Purchase Guidelines from Eden.
(Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton publishers. All rights reserved.)
February 7th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Ian Matthews