Acts 24:5 We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.
The High Priest is bringing his case against Paul to the governor of the region. Trying to explain what it is that Paul has done he uses a descriptive word “loimos” — which can be translated pestilence or plague. While this is meant to be a negative descriptor, for Paul, it was probably a badge of honor. At the root of this word is an understanding of something infectious or contagious. The religious leaders were trying to contain an outbreak of the Nazarenes. So great and powerful was their faith that it was reaching epidemic proportions and the leadership felt that something had to be done to stop it.
The faith of Paul had become contagious and an entire group of people, known as the Nazarenes had also become infected. The result was that nothing in the world could stop what was happening in and through their lives. The fledgling church continued to grow and spread as if it were the outbreak of an epidemic.
In the first few centuries this contagion of Christianity was simply the norm. This was a characteristic of the Christian faith — it was a contagious faith, and this was taken for granted.
I am writing this morning while flying at nearly 30,000 feet above the earth. As I look out the window I am watching the world come to life. Lights are flickering in the cities that we pass below. I see whips of clouds floating along the Appalachian mountains and the sunrise is creating a rainbow of color right outside my window which is more beautiful than anything a human could create or capture. Yet, I realize that I take flying and the beauty which can be seen from this vantage point for granted. It has simply become the norm, but I have faith to trust and believe that this airplane will carry me to my intended destination for that is the nature of commuting by air.
The nature of Christianity is that it is to be contagious and human powers have no ability to stop its spread. But if this is the case, then we must examine ourselves. If there are places where Christianity is no longer contagious, what has happened? It is quite possible that there has been a mutation of the original agent. We may may have introduced something into the contagion of Christianity which has made it less virulent and stifled its ability to spread spontaneously. More than likely we have infused the purity of our faith with our own preconceived notions of how things are to be done. It’s as if we are trying to fly an airplane by flapping our arms and hoping that we would have the same results as I have experienced today on an Airbus.
The plague of Christianity was spread through the firepower of the Holy Spirit. We are called to be agents who will deliver this contagion into the world for this is not a disease that brings death, but life. We have the great vaccine to what ails those around us. If we become an obstacle to the delivery of that agent, then those around us will die.
May we seek to follow the example of Paul and be accused of being a pest for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. And may my tribe, the Nazarenes, again become an unstoppable host for the movement of God's Holy Spirit.
Lord, please help me to be a pest for you. Amen.
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