‘After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.’
This passage looks simple enough, Paul is recounting his actions following his heavenly vision, where Jesus spoke to Paul and turned him away from persecuting Christians to proclaiming the Gospel, but there is more going on here. Agrippa is hearing this defence and could decide that Paul is guilty (making certain Jewish folk happy) or innocent (making the same Jewish folk angry). Why is this relevant? Well take a moment to stop and reflect on times when you have had to defend your actions, thoughts or beliefs to someone as a person of faith, what did you talk about?
Many years ago my sister dated a guy who claimed to be a staunch atheist and who felt faith was ridiculous – that belief in God was nonsense. We had many debates, arguments, and discussions; I always ended up feeling like I hadn’t defended my faith enough. I felt that even if I did this person wasn’t going to take my arguments seriously. I shared this frustration with a mentor and they said to me that trying to argue that Jesus is real was more likely to bring me heartache than win a believer! If I stopped arguing and simply lived my faith it would be more impactful. Well, I stopped arguing, lived my faith, and although the guy didn’t become a believer, I felt that I was being a more faithful follower because I wasn’t trying to prove things to someone. It also meant that my testimony was more genuine.
Paul did argue and verbally wrestle with folk, but I think that here he is far more persuasive about Jesus because he isn’t shouting, but sharing his personal testimony. Our testimonies can be powerful tools that Jesus uses to connect us to others and reach out to people who felt that Jesus might not want them or vice versa.
Jesus, you are good news for all people, we acknowledge and thank you for that good news in our lives. Help us be confident in sharing our testimonies with others, so that they are open to your good news too. Be with us when we are afraid of being laughed at, or losing the argument to prove you are really our Loving God. Bring us peace in knowing that the greatest testimony is to live our faith every day. Amen.
Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, Church Related Community Worker, Coventry Churches