The courage of Peter and John
A quick reflection:
I've been thinking a lot about the disciples in these weeks after the resurrection, and the movement of the Holy Spirit that they experienced as they struggled to make sense of Jesus' death and deal with their own fear of the religious and civil authorities. The last chapters of the book of John and the first few chapters of Acts speak eloquently to their transition from a small band of followers cowering in fear (locked in the upper room) - through their encounters with the risen Christ and the movement of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost - and into the streets to preach the new news of the risen Christ.
Then, as I was flying to Florida today (two full flights - middle seats. Gotta love the life of the moderator) :) I was captivated again by the story of the early ministry of Peter and John in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th chapters of the book of Acts.
I'm so impressed with their courage and their determination in their interactions with the Priests, the Saducees, and the Captain of the Temple. Even after they're jailed, their witness becomes stronger and stronger. In chapter 4:13, their boldness is noted, and we're told that "even though they were ordinary and uneducated men," they were recognized as companions of Jesus.
What intrigues me is how we can emulate that kind of courage and boldness about what we know to be true and who Christ calls us to be. Can that kind of courage be found in our church?
Here's the best line:
"Whether is is right in God's sight to listen to you (religious leaders) rather than to God, you must judge; for WE CANNOT KEEP FROM SPEAKING ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD." (4:19 and 20)
As I travel, I keep looking for that kind of conviction in our church. They responded to human suffering boldly as countless numbers brought the sick to them to be healed. They defended their new understanding of the new, far broader community of the faithful that was called together in the moment of the resurrection, even when tried by the authorities. In the end, they were quite willing to be jailed for their convictions.
Finally, let's not forget the courage of Gamaliel, the Pharisee and teacher of the Law whom we are told was quite well respected, and who spoke boldly to the council when the others wanted to put Peter and John to death. In Acts 5:38, he demands that they be left alone, "because if this plan or undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them - in that case you may even be found fighting against God." Seems like advise that would be useful to those of us across the theological spectrum right now who would like to identify others as heretic.
Let's be on the lookout for stories of that kind of courage to live our faith.