A Winning Strategy
Today’s reading is much longer than those typically chosen for a devotional. Remember, no time spent in Bible reading is ever wasted.
First, a little background on this Scripture passage.
Paul has been arrested in Jerusalem after being accused (falsely) of bringing Gentiles into restricted areas of the Temple. The arresting officer has placed him in protective custody for fear of what the incited Jews might do to him. Although he would have most likely been released once tempers had cooled, he was accused by the Jewish leaders of causing riots.
Paul was held to appear before Felix, the Roman governor. Felix heard Paul speak several times. He did not release Paul, but kept him imprisoned for two years. At that time a new governor, Festus, was appointed. Paul appealed his case to Caesar, which was his right as a Roman citizen. This meant further imprisonment and further delays.
Finally, Paul appeared before the king, Agrippa, and made his defense. That defense is the subject of today s reading.
Two responses to Paul’s appearances before Roman officials are worth noting. The first (Acts 24:25) is by Felix, who, on the occasion of their first meeting said to Paul, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity, I will summon you.”
The second response is from Agrippa, who, after hearing Paul’s defense says, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” So says the translation in the English Standard Version. The King James Version gives us a different slant. Here Agrippa says, “Paul, almost you persuade me to be a Christian.”
One day, Satan called all his minions together. He said, “We’re losing the battle for human souls. It’s clear our present strategy isn’t working. We need fresh ideas.”
One devil spoke up: “We could tell them that this Christianity business is all nonsense.”
Satan said, “We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.”
Another devil said, “We could point out what a good time they will have on earth if they follow us.”
Satan said, “That hasn’t worked either.”
Many suggestions were offered, and one by one Satan discarded them. Finally, an old, experienced devil said, “We could tell them just to wait awhile. No hurry. They can enjoy life now and make a decision later.”
Satan said, “That’s it. That’s the strategy that will work.”
We hear the same message when someone proposes sensible gun control laws after a mass killing. “This is not the time for knee-jerk responses. Let people mourn awhile, then we can talk about gun legislation.” But that time never comes.
We hear the same argument when many want to hold our political leaders responsible for criminal actions. “Now’s not the time. It will only inflame the country and lead to more violence. Let’s let things settle down; Then we’ll study it.” But that time never comes.
Felix says, “I’ll call you when I have more time.”
Agrippa says, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.
Too many people say, “Wait awhile. No need to rush to judgment.”
Satan says, “That’s the strategy that will help us win.”