Acts 5: 17-34
Yesterday we could see the mounting tensions between Temple leaders and the Followers’ leaders. The new believer can be a real irritant to the establishment or the foreigner believer even if they have the same basic religious beliefs. Interestingly Luke gives jealousy as the basic root cause of the conflict. The Sadducees (who were sad…you…see, because they did not believe in resurrection) were deeply challenged at the core of their beliefs but the “other group” that was becoming so popular and contrary to their core tenant. Two churches in one building is hard. Jealousy enters.
Peter and John are arrested and jailed again. This time an angel of the Lord frees them, takes them outside and tells them to go to the Temple and preach! We might not buy the “an angel did it” story but the next morning the jail doors were locked, the apostles missing and found in the Temple preaching. Now the Temple leaders are angry enough to kill. As we look at the wars raging today, the court trials destroying people’s lives, and the massive violence even against children, we know it is possible for people to become angry enough to kill. A new key person appears now, Gamaliel. Gamaliel a Pharisee and teacher of the law, stands and speaks. Note he is a Pharisee. That is like a Republican standing up and speaking to a group of riled up Democrats. Tomorrow we will ponder what he says but let us not race past this part of the story.
Jealousy so often undermines relationships and spiritual growth. When we are in the grips of jealousy, we are not growing spiritually. We can be jealous for many reasons. In this story one side is jealous of the popularity of the other side. People can be jealous because the other is more talented, richer, more beautiful, or more loved. Perhaps there is a relationship that is a bit tense in your life. Could the problem be jealousy? Just ask-in.
The other thing I am challenged by is how Gamaliel in the midst of the tempest, has the courage to engage with the opposite side and talk. We call it a “cut off” when we become upset and walk away from someone because they are living life in a way we strongly disagree with. We cut them off. Gamaliel listened to the Sadducees with whom he was philosophically different from but was courageous to stand and engage with them. It is so easy to convince ourselves that we are being tolerant, keeping the peace, letting by-gones be by-gones and we turn our back on issues rather than go through the pain of working it through with tough conversations. We throw labels like “liberal” or “conservative.” We dehumanize the other into a title.
This part of Acts challenges me to consider if jealousy is impacting any of my relationships and if I hide behind labels. Hmmm. Holy Spirit, shine your light of truth in my heart that I might grow and not make rash judgments. And please help all the parties in our country who are fighting with each other. We need your healing and guidance to find peace!