Monday, July 10, 2006

"Men, you should have taken my advice..."

In yesterday's reading, the apostle Paul gave some navigational advice. Unlike the time Jesus told his disciples "Let us go to the other side," Paul's advice was not to go anywhere, lest cargo and lives be lost. Also unlike Jesus, Paul was ignored from the start (instead of in the middle). Perhaps you remember the story from Mark 4: Jesus says, "Let's go to the other side," and then he takes a nap. The disciples start rowing or sailing or whatever, and a storm hits the boat, which fills with water. They wake Jesus up, saying "Rabbi, don't you care that we're about to die?"

They had forgotten, at this point, the words of Jesus. He didn't say "Let's go half-way across the lake and all drown." He said "Let's go to the other side."

Anyway, at least these guys listened to Jesus in the beginning. Anyway, in the present passage (from Acts 27) we see an "I told you so" from nearly 2,000 years ago:
After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said, "Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.
Acts 27.21-25
This guy is really something. In the midst of disaster, he gives them what the lovely Carol and I are calling a pre-evangelistic message. That is, he doesn't say "Repent and believe in the gospel", but he introduces the God whose I am and whom I serve.

This is the kind of thing I want to do more of. When something happens -- or even when nothing happens -- I want to exude the aroma of Christ. Of course in my character but also in my words. Not too little and not too much (as a former manager used to say, "the Goldilocks theory").

Oh, and why does Paul say, "Men, you should have..."? I didn't mention this in yesterday's essay, but Luke tells us that ...the majority decided that we should sail on... (Acts 27.12) In other words, it wasn't just the centurion deciding for the rest of them, but the majority.

Yet, can you really blame them? Everybody likes to see the job finished. So let's just do it, then we can go home with our pockets full, right? And who is this guy telling us not to go, some experienced navigator? Ummm, no, he's a prisoner with experience in two foreign religions.

And God had mercy on them: as the ship broke apart, some swam and some clung to planks or pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety. (Acts 27.44)

Which shows us again that we have a merciful God. And that's a good word too.

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