“now, the hand of the Lord is against you”
Issues of power and control have been continuous themes in our recent reflections. Once again these elements of the life of faith are to the fore today. Many of us are uncomfortable with judgement and the idea of God being against us. We’re also uncomfortable, rightly in my view, with the concept of pronouncing judgement in the name of God. This kind of thing is so open to abuse and manipulation that it seems unlikely that it would be something Godly at all. And yet today, the (we’re told temporary) judgement and blinding of Elymas by Paul is used to bring the Proconsul Sergius Paulus to faith. So is judgement justified when it leads to salvation?
The question here is one of intimacy. When the disciples are called to set aside Saul and Barnabas for the work God has for them, they are able to do so rightly because they are in intimate relationship with God and with one another. Certainly they didn’t get every decision right. Neither did Saul (Paul) and Barnabas, and it is dangerous for us to think otherwise. God’s call is an inexact science. God calls us to worship and adoration, to sacrifice and to mission, every moment of our lives, and more often than not we are not attentive enough to hear that call. The relationship, and the opportunity for living well, grows with commitment and time, and remembering thankfully the previous faithfulness of God. From here it is easier to know (although not foolproof!) when God is moving and to know how to follow.
It is easy for us to fall in to control and manipulation, but as we are called to lives of contrition, we need to ask for strength to fight the very human temptation to think it’s all about us. It’s all about God, and his glory. So if we’re all set to pronounce judgement, we better be sure that it is God asking us to do it, and not fear or culture, and we better be ready for the spotlight to be turned right back on to us. Tread with caution!