Job 36-37; Acts 14; Psalm 49
This Good News of the forgiveness of sins continues to bear fruit as Paul and Barnabas continue on their missionary journey. We may well wonder why such a glorious message receives such opposition. Once again and in utter perversity ‘unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against them’.
Setting people free at the most fundamental level is not something which for now will be universally acknowledged as a good thing. We live in a world in multiple forms of slavery – economic, emotional to name but perhaps the greatest impersonal and personal prisons. There are idols we are told we Must serve, and live in fear of, all of them Good things that have been distorted, yet whether they are ‘out there’ or deep within our hearts, we fear to let them go and live in freedom.
The person who is truly set free no longer participates in these fear laden idolatries, and their lives are difficult to comprehend. They forgive ‘the unforgiveable’, they are at work liberating the oppressed and welcoming them into the community of faith, where God is the one to be feared, the God who forgives sins. Indeed, entering into this Way, set free from captivity, their lives seem to be of a radically different order, and so Paul and Barnabas have to fight to prevent the people worshipping them as Gods. They so reveal the life of God in themselves, that those who have not yet received the message cannot see the difference.
This message of liberation is opposed. The powers that be have their slaves, who live in fear of the idols. There are others who continue to control others by withholding liberating forgiveness. To set the prisoner free will arouse opposition, the jailers have invested their being in their control over others. And so as with Christ, so with the Church. “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the Kingdom of God”
As an aside, when we talk of the persecution of the church in this age, does this persecution have its roots in setting the prisoners free through the forgiveness of sins?