Coping with Danger: Hearing & Trial by Justin Welby

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In the Bible reading today Justin Welby looks at hearing and trial of St Paul

The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied, "I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defence. You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city."  At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defence. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. :Your great learning is driving you insane."

"I am not insane, most excellent Festus," Paul replied. "What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do."

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

Paul replied, "Short time or long— I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains."

The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. They left the room, and while talking with one another, they said, "This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment."

Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." (Acts 25:9–12; 26:24–32)

Some dangers can be prepared for: in Paul's case in this chapter, his preparation stretched over a number of years. As I write, in a cathedral in a city where about 40 per cent of the workforce is employed in the public sector, and where we already have the highest levels of economic hardship in the UK, we await the effects of the public spending cuts. Redundancy notices are already falling like confetti in some areas. We know the danger: it lies ahead, its timing is reasonably predictable, and its nature is easy to identify. We can prepare, but how?

Paul faced a corrupt governor (24:26) and was under no illusion that his trial would be just. His strategy was clear: testimony and appeal to Caesar when the case went against him. He would get to Rome one way or another, and not die at the hands of a lynch mob outside the walls of Jerusalem, like Stephen had done. When we know the danger, can recognise it and can prepare for it, then we must seek an outcome that will fulfil God's calling and purpose for us—above all, in how we dem- onstrate and speak of why we are Christians. That is very challenging. The tendency is to thrash around like a netted fish, looking for escape.

As we face the economic dangers at this cathedral, we have a clear approach:

  • Pray a lot.
  • Be realistic, neither exaggerating the problem nor ignoring it, but working out what the problem is and how bad the consequences might be.
  • Make a plan, and work through it with others.
  • By discussion, seek for radical alternatives that we may not yet have recognised.

Sometimes God uses these moments of threatened danger in very sur- prising ways. Pressures and sudden opportunities may come, but a well-principled and structured strategy will enable us to trust and be faithful. There is nothing wrong with prayerful and thoughtful anticipa- tion, rather than simply waiting for 'something to turn up'. The spon- taneous inspiration of the Spirit will be necessary and will be given as our circumstances change and twist, but Paul shows all the evidence of forethought. Whether he was right or wrong (26:32), his strategy was clear and his commitment persuasive.

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.)

8th February

February 8th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Ian Matthews

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