What To Do When The World Slanders You
As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language. — Acts 21:37-40
So recalling where we left off last time. There was a riot on the temple grounds, which was stirred by the false assumption that Paul had brought a Gentile into an off-limits area of the temple. This threw the Jewish crowd into chaos, so much so that the civil authorities had to intervene. The man onsite leading the civil intervention was a Roman tribune named Claudius Lysias. (A tribune was a high-ranking officer who commanded around 1000 Roman soldiers.) And right when Paul is bound, Claudius comes to discover two startling facts about Paul. First, that he can speak Greek which was a language only used by those of higher education. Second, that he is not the agitator he thought he was, and it sounds like Cladius has him confused with an Egyptian revolutionist.
The catch-all term for what happens here to Paul is called “defamation of character.” It is any statement that is used to hurts someone’s reputation. Written defamation is called “libel.” Spoken defamation is called “slander.” Defamation is not a crime, but this does not make it right. And in our country today, one can be legally sued for defamation even though we have the right to speak out about what we believe.
This is a growing concern for many followers of Jesus, primarily because defamation of character is becoming almost acceptable in news media and social media. This drives up our concern about potential attacks on our character, making it more challenging to navigate the world as a citizen and a believer who holds to conservative biblical beliefs. Because of this trend, many of us are finding it harder to voice our concerns not only about what we believe but what might result from an attack on our character. And this type of attack, called an “ad hominem argument,” is a personal attack against the source of an argument rather than against the argument itself. And we have seen an explosion of this all over the country.
But notice that Paul is not too concerned about filing a defamation of character suit against his assailants. I would suggest he is not worried about this at all. He is actually more concerned about two things inferred by this text. First, he is more concerned about God’s character than his character. Second, he is more concerned about defending God’s truth than defending himself. And this will come out even more as we read about what he said to this crowd.
So here’s a truth you might not want to hear. It’s not going to get better for those of us who hold to conservative biblical beliefs. It’s going to get more complicated. And if you have not yet been attacked for your beliefs, it will eventually happen. But instead of being so concerned about yourself in the event of an attack, turn your concern to God. Be concerned with his reputation and defending his truth. Make this sacrifice for him. He did for you.
ASK THIS: Are you ready to sacrifice your reputation and your vindication for Jesus?
DO THIS: Turn your attention from being concerned for yourself to being concerned for Jesus.
PRAY THIS: God, thank you for risking it all for me. I still don’t fully understand why you did this for me.
PLAY THIS: Leanna Crawford — Truth I’m Standing On.
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