Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Keep the Good Going (Part One in a Series from Acts 4)

"What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!” That’s how I think I would have responded if Luke were actually sitting in my living room telling me what he wrote for us in Acts 4. “They know they can’t deny the miracle, but they still are desperate to stop them from talking about Jesus?” How can they justify that? Why are they trying to stop something that is obviously good? Peter and John did a nice thing, showing tremendous power, for a crippled man!”

Why would people try to stop something this good from happening? One reason, in this case, is that they had a bogus belief to which they were committed. That’s true, at least for the Sadducees. “There hasn’t been a resurrection; there isn’t a resurrection; there never will be a resurrection. Do all the miracles you want, you can’t convince me that someone can raise from the dead.” It was their rejection of any teaching based on the idea of resurrection or including the promise of a resurrection that motivated them to threaten Peter and John.

In our churches, people with bogus beliefs sometimes try to stop good from happening because of conviction to those beliefs. Sometimes the evidence against their belief is as plain as the healing of a crippled man, but not usually. They believe they’ve got a good argument to make, but will deny the possibility of other positions that might have good argument, too. “I just can’t see how it can be any other way,” someone might say.

Before you diligently labor to stop some good that someone is trying to do; before you threaten anyone with anything – ask yourself this question: “Do a significant number of others with whom I usually agree (for instance the people with whom you assemble) believe something differently about this issue?” If you answer that question affirmatively, you would do well, for yourself and for others, to recognize that there other legitimate possibilities. You may not see them, but others may. You have right, and perhaps an obligation, to teach and persuade people to believe what you believe with an attitude of love. You have no right, however, to expect that because you can’t see the possibility of something being true, others who disagree must conform to your dogmatism – especially if a significant number of others with whom you regularly agree, disagree with you in regard to this issue.

Truth is not determined by the number of people who believe a thing, but if a number of people with whom you regularly agree don’t believe what you believe, it might just be your conviction that needs adjusting.

1 comment:

JD said...

Why do we feel the need to correct everyone who has come to a different conclusion than we? There are a hundred issues ... a hundred convictions ... a hundred viewpoints on every issue. When I decide that you must match up to 75% or 90% of my views in order for me to worship in the same room with you on Sunday mornings, I have decided to use convictions as a weapon. People who seek to stop good works of others often are doing nothing themselves. I'd rather see a rebel sabbath-day-healer any day than a sadduccee-sit-around-and-blabber-about-theology-and-do-nothing any day.