Considered with Contempt
Acts 28:22 But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
Having finally arrived at Rome, Paul calls together the Jews of the city. Coming to his home they begin a conversation in which Paul is curious regarding what they have heard about Christianity. Their response gives us a small glimpse of the news that had spread. This group, the Christians, were considered a sect and they were viewed with contempt. Justin Martyr writes that the Christians were cursed in the Jewish synagogues and that an organized band of Jewish men was sent out to inform the entire world of the heresy of Christianity. Everywhere this new sect was considered with contempt.
The reality is that for most of her history Christianity has been viewed with contempt. The message of the Gospel is counter-cultural and there are facets which will make society uncomfortable. Paul was not surprised by their perception for he was in Rome for precisely this reason. It was the Jewish leaders’ contempt of the Gospel which had brought him to Rome. He simply saw it as another opportunity to spread the good news. The contempt of one became the opportunity of another and he never allowed the attitudes of his adversaries to deter him from his divine commission.
If, as a Christian, we are hoping to win a popularity contest, we have it all wrong! These days Christianity is often viewed with contempt. Sadly, there have been a few who have abused Christianity, not living like Christ and have drawn very negative attention. The result is that all of Christianity has to live with the pock-mark that places greater pressure on true followers of Christ. Paul had to live with the negative attention and all that had been done to drum up bad press for the Christians. Ultimately he paid the price with his own life.
How do we respond when we are considered with contempt? Paul becomes a great example for us in this closing chapter of Acts. Actually, it all closes rather abruptly and leaves us without closure related to Paul’s life. But this we do know, he continued to preach about Christ. Even in the face of those who viewed him with contempt, he would not give up! Everything he did was in a desire to tell others about Christ. He paid his own expenses and organized intentional meetings with leaders so that he might discuss with them all about Christ. He helped to disciple new leaders and always ministered to those who were his guards. No opportunity was ever wasted when it came to sharing the good news and in this he rejoiced. Contempt or no contempt, it was never an excuse. There were no excuses — he just kept moving forward!
In the face of Christianity being viewed with contempt we must remain focused on knowing Christ. This was Paul’s number one passion and everything else grew from there. Nothing should be able to separate us from God’s love as we seek him in the face of difficulties. Don’t try to argue or persuade without knowing the majestic depths of the love of God found in Christ, our Savior. Let the world look upon us with contempt, as we respond with God’s holy love. This is the mystery.
Lord, thank you for the depths of your love which transforms your people. Amen.