As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people urged them to speak about these things again the next sabbath. When the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”’ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Jealousy is a human emotion, and to be honest, when I see someone who creates something beautiful, whether it is a piece of art work, or the patience of crafting a written piece of work, I have to admit, a degree of jealousy creeps alongside my admiration.
Jealousy tells us about our inner-selves, about inner desires, what we yearn for, the issues that have passed us by, and the regrets of not achieving what we think is rightfully ours. It illustrates what we need to address within ourselves, to further self-development, spiritual and personal growth.
The Jewish leaders were jealous and also fearful of Paul and Barnabas, as they brought something new to the listeners of the town therefore they felt threatened. They could not cope with how well they were being received by the Gentiles and their joyful reaction, so the Jewish leaders did the one thing that would stop it. In their jealousy, they ran Paul and Barnabas out of town.
How do we react when we find ourselves with feelings of jealousy, when we feel we should have the adulation, not someone else?Do we react like the Jews and aggressively retaliate?
How do we react when we come face to face with jealousy, when we want to answer back, but know that we need to shake the dust from our feet and graciously walk away. Do we allow the Holy Spirit to prompt us reacting wisely?
Are we aware of the potential destruction of jealousy within us?
The issue of our own jealousy is a difficult one, but one that we must grapple with if we are to stay true to the responsibility of discipleship, and with humility and grace, we can grow and deepen our relationship with God and God’s people.
It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech……. The path is not long, but the way is deep……… You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.”
Prayer from Hildegard of Bingen
The Rev’d Ruth Dillon, retired minister, member of Glenorchy URC, and Point in View