Bribery or self-control?


But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.”
(Acts 24:25 NASB)
At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.
(Acts 24:26 NASB)


Here again, we find the topic of bribery. It was a commonplace act in society and everyone simply expected to be offered bribes. This is the reality in much of our world today. Entire nations function on a system of bribery and without it everything comes to a grinding halt. That is exactly what happened to the Apostle Paul. Everything in his life came to a grinding halt because he refused to stoop to bribery to get himself out of prison. None of his friends who were a part of "the Way" tried to bribe the officials either. That is because they had been radically transformed.

The contrast is made in Paul's life when we hear what it was that Paul often discussed. The followers of the Way no longer lived within the culture of the world, but now they exercised self-control, their goal was to be holy and righteous people, and they lived with a focus on the future, which was the judgment to come. It appears that Paul had numerous conversations with Felix over a period of two years in which he remained consistent in his faith. Finally, the consistency of this counter-cultural behavior became frightening to Felix. Why so? Because of the power of God revealed in such behavior. Our lives are to glorify God, and when we allow him to fill us and transform us, there is a self-control which results that can be frightening to the world. It is in this that the righteousness of God is revealed and it makes the world uncomfortable.


We might want to equate the situation with the Apostle Paul with Tim Tebow. Why? Because the obsession with Tim Tebow is similar -- the world is waiting around for him to fall. His righteousness makes them uncomfortable. Just like Felix kept waiting for a bribe which would prove that Paul wasn't really serious about this, so we wait for Tim Tebow to have some kind of a moral failure and prove he's not for real. However, Paul was for real. Therefore he was consistent in his Christian walk, ever keeping his eyes on the Lord, and his life revealing to the world what it meant to be "in Christ."

Two choices are made very clear to us in this reading. There is the Christian, Paul, who has been radically transformed by the infilling of the Holy Spirit in his life, leading to a life of self-control and righteousness, or there is the one who calls themselves a Christian, and yet seeks the easy way out. We are not called to a faith that seeks the easy way out. Rather, we are called to a faith that stands up against the normal values of this world and lives a life as a citizen of the kingdom of God. We are different. We are transformed. And yes, it can be frightening to the world.


Lord, please help me not to conform to the patterns of this world, but to trust in you. Amen.


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