6 And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors,
Paul found himself being judged yet again. Here was Paul, still in prison in Caesarea, and Festus brought him out in front of King Agrippa, so that he might present his defense. Paul continued to focus on the core value of his faith — that he believes Jesus is the resurrected Messiah. This is why he has hope, because he believes in the hope of the resurrection as a result of his own personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. The leading doctrine of the party was a belief in the resurrection.
The reality is that Paul was being judged for other things, small things that the religious rulers obsessed over because they didn’t want to talk about the real issue. They refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and they certainly refused to believe the resurrection accounts. Paul kept bringing the argument around that if they were a people who believed in the resurrection, why could they not believe all the resurrection accounts regarding Jesus and accept him as the fulfillment of the promise made by God so long ago to his people?
Paul was being judged for what he truly believed, not for the little things that the religious leaders were making up. He refused to argue the little points and kept the main thing the main thing! The discussion had to be about the resurrected Christ for this was the essential that changed everything. Unfortunately the constant nagging and complaining of the religious officials landed Paul in jail with essentially no charges. He was being judged over something he had never done, or maybe just because he had pricked the consciences of those who had heard his preaching.
I was sitting with a group of individuals at a church and we were having a discussion about a ministry within that congregation. I had shared a few thoughts when suddenly one of the group members asked rather accusatorially, “Are you saying that you think we ought to be studying the Bible?” “Are you saying that you think we ought to be reaching out to new people?” I sat there, guilty on both counts.
Sadly there will be those who will get off track and who will try to distract us from the central focus of our faith. The challenge, when being judged, is to keep our focus on what is the most important. Paul is a great example of someone who refused to be distracted. He would not go down the path of doctrinal differences because he focused on the main thing — Christ Resurrected! There are times in life when people are judgmental and critical of us, but usually those criticisms are not about the main thing. Or maybe we’re the ones who’ve become distracted by all the periphery and allowed it to consume us to the point that we’ve lost sight of the main thing. I think that could probably be said for the religious officials. They were so obsessed with Paul that I can’t imagine that they had much joy in their own personal lives and they missed the very Messiah whose theological position they were trying to defend.
Being judged? Keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t get caught going down rabbit trails but, using the example of Paul, keep the focus on Christ. Our message and our hope is the resurrected Christ. We are to be living that cruciform life brought to us by the risen Savior.
We are walking the lenten journey and we must not allow distractions to keep us from the place where God wants to take us. Sure, there will be those who judge, but as for you and me, let’s keep the main thing, the main thing.
Lord, please help me keep my eyes on you as I follow you in this journey. Amen.