November 4, 2014
“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
It’s a good question for election day.
Are you a “FOR” person or an “AGAINST” person.
Let me ask it another way. What are you for? Many people (if not most) cannot answer this question with any sufficient or satisfying detail. Over the course of life and time, people slowly become cynical about their ideals, hopes and aspirations (and even their faith) and wind up becoming more defined by what they oppose than what they are for.
We need only look at today’s elections. The most galvanizing message of this year’s election season is not that of voting “for” something, but voting “against” someone. You know who I’m talking about. The elections today are overwhelmingly and ironically all about being against a person who is not even on the ballot. If a candidate comes within six degrees of relationship to President Obama they might as well pack it up and go home. Even his friends don’t want to be perceived as “FOR” him. I intend to make no political statement with this other than to point out the obvious reality. It has been the same in past elections when a Republican candidate held the office of President.
This is not about politics but human nature; hence my question: Are you a “FOR” person or an “AGAINST” person.
So what does this have to do with Paul and today’s text? Thanks for asking. Paul tells his story to King Agrippa through this framework. Paul begins by sharing with Agrippa just how much of an “AGAINST” person he used to be. He said it clearly– his opposition to Jesus of Nazareth and his followers was an obsession fueled by aggression. Paul defined himself by what he opposed.
I know, some of you are thinking, “But underneath his opposition to Jesus, he was actually “FOR” something else. O.K., what was he for? Where have you ever heard him talk about anything he was “FOR” before he met Jesus? For that matter, scan back through the Gospels and see if you can find direct evidence of what the Pharisees were “FOR” in their fight “AGAINST” Jesus. I can’t find it.
I’m sure they were for something. After all, everyone who is FOR something is also AGAINST other things. My question has to do with your center of gravity. Once a person’s center of gravity shifts from what they are for to what they are against they tend to slowly lose sight of what they were for and life becomes fueled by obsessive opposition. Let’s be honest. Being “AGAINST” works powerfully in motivating campaigns and causes. It just won’t move the Gospel. Only “FOR” people move the Gospel.
One doesn’t have to look very far to find out what a “FOR” person is for. It’s patently obvious. After Paul met Jesus, it became overwhelmingly, abundantly clear he was FOR Jesus. Maybe it’s the difference between aggressive obsession and passionate pursuit. I’m beginning to think this may have been the most significant element of Paul’s conversion– he ceased being an “AGAINST” person and became a “FOR” person. He traded in his angry obsession for a holy passion.
So I’ll ask again. Are you a “FOR” person or an “AGAINST” person? How can you tell? If you don’t have an immediate answer to the question, “What are you FOR?” then you are probably an “AGAINST” person.
Paul shows us– by the power of the Holy Spirit– profound change is possible.
It’s worth some real introspection on election day.
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
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