Has someone ever falsely accused you? Being misrepresented hurts. Paul has just been falsely accused, and the authorities have mistakenly thought he was someone else. He has been beaten, arrested, protected and now he is standing at the steps of the fortress (barracks) and has permission from the Roman authorities to speak. The loud and chaotic mob has gone silent waiting for Paul to speak!
Putting ourselves in Paul’s shoes is hard. We struggle to understand what it would be like to worship at the temple, be under Roman authority, not have the conveniences of today and be at the beginning of this new movement he calls “The Way”.
Yet, as different as our world is today, Christianity and Christians are often misunderstood and falsely accused. Many times I have felt compelled to argue how Christianity is different than other religions or explain my view on a variety of topics! Even though there is much confusion about Christianity today, I wonder what good my explanations have brought about. Have they really helped others grasp what Jesus desires to do in the world, what he has done in me and what he wants to do in them? People can argue opinions all day, but they can’t argue a person’s experience —it is what it is.
Paul, standing on the steps with an angry mob all around, asked the Roman commander permission to speak. I wonder if we asked for permission to speak what difference that would make. How would that change the posture of our listeners? How would that change us? If I were in Paul’s situation I would be screaming to everyone that they had the wrong guy and they didn’t understand. Remember the mob was going to kill Paul until the Roman commander arrived!
Maybe, rather than acting on our compulsion to argue or hiding from conflict, we can first humbly ask permission to speak? We see that when Paul did, that noise turned to silence. The mob, as angry as they were, were willing to listen—at least for a while!
Our world has some misguided ideas about Christians and Christianity. It is easy to be offended. Some of us want to argue, other’s of us want to hide, neither of which are particularly helpful. Let’s set aside our offence and humbly ask permission to speak. In what situations do you need to ask permission to speak? Rather than arguing an opinion, what God-story could you tell?