5:40 After calling the apostles back, they had them beaten. They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, then let them go. 41 The apostles left the council rejoicing because they had been regarded as worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the name. 42 Every day they continued to teach and proclaim the good news that Jesus is the Christ, both in the temple and in houses.
16:4 As Paul and his companions traveled through the cities, they instructed Gentile believers to keep the regulations put in place by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and every day their numbers flourished.
It was remarkable that the apostles, after a beating, “left the council rejoicing because they had been regarded as worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the name.” But in some ways, what followed was even more remarkable: “Every day they continued to teach and proclaim the good news.” Acts 16:5 also made the point that sharing the good news of Jesus was an everyday occurrence for the early Christians.
Lord Jesus, one sign of this world’s brokenness is the way that some people try, every day, to shame your followers. Give me the apostles’ courage and trust in you if I face that kind of behavior. Amen.
* HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 248207-248208). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
I’ve always thought that early Christians were persecuted because they were a threat to the empire. This movement of love was turning the patriarchy upside down. The empire was only powerful when it had its people living in fear. Jesus, and his followers, teaching of an unconditionally loving God was too much love, and not enough fear, to keep people under power...so thought the empire.
But when I go deeper into reading the stories, like the apostles being beaten for teaching about a God of love, I see something more evil happening. “Public beatings were meant to shame…those so beaten. The person would be stripped and given a maximum of 39 lashes in a public place.” That has a deeper motive than a threat to the empire. To lash someone over 39 times in public takes a streak of dehumanizing evil that runs deeper than protecting the institution. This is about the psyche of the person holding the whip and those cheering him on.
Track with me here. Might it be that the people who beat the apostles for teaching about Jesus, or the persecutors today who shame people for their faith, do this because they feel deeply unworthy to know they are loved? Do we hurt others because we don’t feel loved ourselves? Is it too much to see people dedicated to their faith, people who know for sure they are loved unconditionally? Is that too much for us to handle because we feel unworthy, so instead of working on our own sense of self-worth we lash out at others who know their self-worth?
Think about someone you know who is passionate about a topic. Do they drive you crazy because they talk about it all the time? Do they try to convert you into becoming passionate about it too? Do you think they are obsessed with this topic and need to get some other interests? Might you secretly be envious that they found something to be passionate about and you haven’t yet?
Brene Brown’s definition of shame is, “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” *
Could this be why we shame others--because we don’t feel worthy of love ourselves? Maybe this is us: "I can’t stand to see you happy and living into your purpose while I'm over here spinning my wheels. Rather than seek my own purpose, I’ll just criticize yours."
Imagine the possibilities if we each deeply knew we were loved, and belong to the world as a child of God. If we looked at people who do things we don’t agree with and said to ourselves, "She is a child of God and is loved, no matter what she believes or does." What happens if you do that as you scroll through your social media feed today? When we do this, we relinquish the need to judge, criticize, blame, and shame others. Can we put down our whips and listen instead of lashing out? Can we accept God's love and then show that love to others? I think we can.
* Brown, Brene, Daring Greatly. (Gotham Books, New York, NY, 2012), 69.
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