I am a hater of injustice. I am passionate about equality. I am a people pleaser.
Among my friends and family I often find my heart heavy with desire for them to feel the same need for equality and freedom I do. However, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I sadly often keep my mouth closed.
A good friend of mine asked recently, “have you ever thought that maybe the Holy Spirit has given you these passions and a voice for the very reason of being a witness to those around you, even those that know God?” This question terrified me. What does it look like to be a witness to those around me? Won’t I hurt people’s feelings if I disagree or point something out they don’t want to see? Is it worth it to speak up?
In Acts 22, Paul upsets a large group of people from his hometown, many which were probably some of his childhood friends and family. In this passage, there are principals practiced by Paul that are good tools for us to use when witnessing to others.
1. Be relevant. There is a riot that breaks out among the Jews against Paul. The Jews go silent when Paul begins speaking to them because he chooses to use their native language of Aramaic (22:2). He addresses their commonality of Jewish heritage and utilizes it. Where are the people we are witnessing to from? What was their upbringing like? What similarities do we have with them
2. Gain credibility. Paul starts off telling the Jews that he grew up like them, he tells them about his education and how he cared about and sought to uphold the law just like them and even understands how they currently feel. He was a leader in persecuting followers of the Way and had killed many (22:5). He mentions the name of a respected leader of the Jews who was also part of his healing and transformation (22:12-13). Have we ever believed or felt similar to the person(s) we are witnessing to? What experiences have we gone through in the past that relate to this situation? Who are people we both respect and that have been influential in our journey?
3. Share your story (even the parts that sound weird). Paul explains his mission to the crowd by sharing the details of his own journey. Even though some of the details of his testimony seem unbelievable – like meeting Jesus and going blind and being healed – he shares them (22:7-13). The crowd listens intently even as he shares the not so believable details. How can we practice and become more comfortable sharing our story? What parts of our story do we leave out because we are afraid others will reject it or think we are weird?
4. Speak truth and take risks. As Paul addresses this group of Jews, residents of Jerusalem, he shares that the Lord told him to leave Jerusalem and go to their enemy’s, the Gentiles, land to tell them about the Way (22:19-21). Paul could have left this part out of his talk but he believed so strongly in God’s heart for equality amongst all God’s people that he shared it. After Paul spoke about God’s heart for the Gentiles the Jews became irate and hated him more. What truths do we leave out of our conversations because we’re too afraid of being hated? What are things we believe in and need to speak up for?
The tug-of-war of being a witness for justice and truth is worth the fight. My prayer is that I/we learn that pleasing those around us is not more important than sharing the passions God has illuminated in our lives.
– Kayin Griffith – Spiritual Life Coordinator
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