Acts 27:33 Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” 35 After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves. 37 (We were in all two hundred seventy-six persons in the ship.) 38 After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.
For days on end Paul and his companions had been struggling to survive in the midst of a troubling storm. Knowing that the ship will soon run aground Paul brought the crew together and urged them all to eat. Paul, the prisoner had suddenly become the leader, and it’s wasn't about his mastery of the skill of piloting a ship, but his demeanor when all the world around him was in chaos. His calm and sure presence became a comfort to those who were terrified and they were willing to accept his advice. He had proven himself true, through and through, and there were to be no compromises. He never gave in to the frustrations of the storm, nor did he ever step out of character. His love and concern continued to extend to those around him and finally he wanted them to eat and be strengthened for the extremely taxing hours ahead.
While the language we read here may sound as if Paul extends the eucharist to those on the boat, that is unlikely. However it may speak more to us about Paul and the fact that he will not compromise who he is, even when the world around him is falling apart. They need to eat and the entire crew is now following his lead. They are not believers, but they are willing to listen and be influenced by this genuine follower of Christ. So Paul just does what he always does when we he eats — he takes the bread and gives thanks to God in the presence of all of them and then breaks it and begins to eat. Here, in the midst of a sinking ship, Paul never compromises who he is or his relationship to God.
The storms of life provide plenty of opportunity for compromise. A friend of mine who lives in the Pacific Northwest recently told me that secular society in his area worries about Christians because they seem to have a lower moral standard than they do! The divorce rate among Christians is the same as non-Christians. Christianity and western culture are almost seen as inexplicably one…and I think we have to ask ourselves whether we have compromised! Have we succumbed to the tempest of the world around us, giving way to the chaos?
Bede tells us, “No one escapes the tempests of this world except those who are nourished by the bread of life, and one who in the night of present tribulations depends for all his strength on wisdom, fortitude, temperance and justice will soon, with the shining forth of divine help, reach the port of salvation which he had sought, provided that, unencumbered by things of the world, he seeks only the flame of [NT Vol. V, p. 308] love with which he may warm his heart.” There can be no compromise. We will only persevere as we are “nourished by the bread of life.”
The lenten journey must lead us to the “bread of life,” where there can be no compromise. There must be one focus and one focus alone in our lives — and that is to know Christ. For Paul, even in the midst of a life-threatening storm he remained calm as he refused to compromise, and remained faithful to Christ.
Lord, may there be no compromises — only you. Amen.