Unbelief vs. Disbelief
Acts 14:2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
Paul and Barnabas were successful in their ministry in Iconium. They would travel to the synagogue and share the good news about Jesus Christ. Many Jews became believers and were becoming disciples. One would assume that many Greeks were also turning to Christ. However, there existed a group of Jews who did not believe. The word used here has been translated different ways. Sometimes it's called unbelief, while other translators have referred to it as disbelief. Somehow the use of the term disbelief feels more accurate for in it lies something that, in my mind, leads to activity. Unbelief sounds a little more passive. However, these folks were not passive unbelievers, but rather became activists. They went out actively with their disbelief and began to round up those who would listen to them and their tales of disbelief. They went to the Gentiles, those who were pagans, who would not have had any belief and they purposely stirred them up. These folks who would have benefitted so much from knowing the good news of Jesus Christ were easily persuaded to attack Paul and Barnabas. The language used here is that those active disbelieving Jews "poisoned" the minds of the Gentiles. Others might say that they were made angry, or even embittered against the disciples. What leads one to such anger that they must actively poison the minds of others to take action against those who have come to bring the good news? Probably the answer lies in jealousy. Jealousy can often bring about extremely violent action even in those who are supposed to be followers of God.
The world today is filled with unbelievers, those who passively don't know about Jesus Christ. There are many who fit into the pagan/Gentile category who simply have no belief. Where we must be cautious is to ever cross over into the area of "disbelief." Those who "disbelieved" were good people -- they were God's people. These were people who had studied the scriptures all of their lives. They had been living by the rules of the Torah, and yet, somehow they felt that this Good News, this new news was a threat. They watched as many within their own group believed in Christ as the Messiah, but they simply could not believe and they had to become activists against what was happening. I am guessing that they even convinced themselves that they were the guardians of the true knowledge of God and of the Faith. They were the protectors of the faith and theology of the past and they were not going to allow anything to change what they had always known to be true. They were not passive in their unbelief but decided to take action. They found those who were the weakest among them -- those who didn't know much about any kind of faith in God and preyed on their weaknesses to poison their minds. The poor, unsuspecting Gentiles believed without questioning, everything that they were told.
The sad end result of the behavior was that those who really needed to know Jesus Christ were hurt. They were used by the religious folks to their advantage and in the end lost out on getting to know the one who could have set them free.
There are times when things change within the life of the Church and sometimes we see the changes as a threat to our very understanding. We may not agree but our response may be one of unagreement or disagreement. There's a big difference here. Disagreement becomes hurtful and divisive to those within the Church, and to those who really needed to know Jesus Christ. Those who need to know Him become pawns in a game.
We may never agree with everything that happens within the Church community, but we may choose our response. The enemy is hoping that we go the direction of being "dissed."
Lord, help us in our times of unbelief to seek you and your response. Amen.