Religious persecution is an odd concept when you think about it. Especially when you consider the horrible ways in which people have been executed for their various faiths over time. In the passage below, Paul is accused of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.”(Acts 18:13) I have often pondered why religious persecution has been such a common practice throughout history, so I was delighted to read of Gallio’s response. He simply rubbished the charges and threw the case out of court. It seems from the response of the crowd as they beat up Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, that perhaps many of them had not agreed with his assessment of Paul’s teaching and so now they were able to vent their frustration with the full blessing of the Roman Governor. A beating that the Jews had hoped to visit upon Paul, was instead delivered to their leader.
Acts 18:9-17 NLT
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. But when Gallio became governor of Achaia, some Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him before the governor for judgment. They accused Paul of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.” But just as Paul started to make his defence, Gallio turned to Paul’s accusers and said, “Listen, you Jews, if this were a case involving some wrongdoing or a serious crime, I would have a reason to accept your case. But since it is merely a question of words and names and your Jewish law, take care of it yourselves. I refuse to judge such matters.” And he threw them out of the courtroom. The crowd then grabbed Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him right there in the courtroom. But Gallio paid no attention.
In Paul’s vision the Lord finishes by telling Paul that many people in the city belong to Him. My goal is to listen to that point and take it seriously in my life. I need to remember how it was for me before I made my commitment to follow Jesus. I think I always knew, deep down, that I belonged to the Lord. But I needed someone not to be silent, not to be afraid and to speak out. If it could happen to me, then I firmly believe there are many, many others like me all around just waiting for us to reach out to them and help them find their Lord….
…Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
2 Kings 10:32-12:21, Acts 18:1-22, Psalms 145:1-21, Proverbs 18:1