By Canon S Sebastian Campbell
“They are all breaking the laws of the Emperor, saying that there is another, one, whose name is Jesus.” (Acts 17:5-7)
Paul and Silas and their group of Christians are in trouble; big trouble. They have been riling up the powers that be in the city of Thessalonica by not only witnessing that a man called Jesus rose from the dead, but also claiming that this Jesus is the longed for Messiah. One of their listeners has finally had enough already and fumes to the city authorities that these Christians “have been turning the world upside down.” He adds, his voice dripping with sarcasm, that “these people are saying that there is another king named Jesus” (Acts 17:6-7)
The Thessalonicans’ words were meant to condemn, but as Jesus’ disciples we would do well to take them as the highest compliment. That’s because the kind of discipleship to which Jesus calls us is precisely one to turn our world upside down.
In Acts 1, Jesus promised His disciples power to be witnesses. It wasn’t taken lightly. The world was all mixed up. Wrong was called right and right was called wrong. It was a confused world, where Caesar was king and worshipped as God. In Acts 1, Jesus charged His disciples to go and be radical.
The mandate for change was to take them into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost ends of the earth (that includes the Bahamas)
In Acts 2, it’s the day of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit rips through like a mighty rushing wind; a symbol of power. It was the moment of empowerment. So powerful is this moment that it is called the birthday of the Church. Something new and dynamic had taken place. The bystanders could not comprehend it, so they jeered and accused the newborn Christians of being drunk. True now, the Christians had gone crazy with excitement. They had a joy now they had never had before. These crazy Christians were ready to take on the world, turn it upside down.
The Church is born in a world where the haves had, and the have-nots had not. But Acts 2:43-47 and Acts 4:32-37 suggest that these who followed Jesus followed a new way of life. The disciples shared all they had so that “there was not a needy person among them.”
When things were the wrong side up, a man who was lame and disabled was condemned to live his life begging for alms just to stay alive. But when Peter and John saw such a man begging for space change, Peter told him, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) His world was turning around.
My brothers and sisters, the world we live in is just as confused, just as immoral, just as unethical, just as uncaring, unloving as the world was in which the Church was born.
Last Friday, 300 died in an Egyptian mosque; victims of a terror attack. This included children. The ISIS terror group is invading Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Middle Eastern countries. These are the lands of the Bible.
It is estimated that there are more than one thousand operators ready to kill and destroy anyone. This was the darkest day of terror for Egypt where there are more than one hundred million Arabs (the world’s largest Arab country).
Terrorism is invading the world. Those of us in the West must find no comfort, but rather be on guard as we up our commitment to Jesus Christ in whose mandate, to be His witnesses, we can have hope.
We can find no comfort in unconfirmed statistics that crime is down. Crime is real; the fear of crime is still too high. He who feels it knows it. A man was killed in his home in recent days; an innocent man. A rising number of young mothers line up in the court on West Street, almost every day, seeking the pittance legislated in child support. Bahamians are still dying because they lack necessary funds to pay for healthcare, We bury some every week. National Health Insurance needs to come off the back burner to the front burner. In our country the rich live and the poor die; we need a level playing field for healthcare. The prevalence of slums and homeless persons is still nerve-wrecking.
Those first disciples turned the world upside down. They became instruments of God’s transfiguration because they themselves were being formed and transformed as followers of Jesus. Because Jesus had made a difference in their world, they gained the strength and commitment to bring the good news to others.
How was it possible for the early Christians to turn their world upside down? How will it be possible for us to turn our world upside down? It begins with Jesus Christ. We must deepen our relationship with God and each other in Christ. A spiritual practice such as a renewal prayer life is necessary.
Renewal in our spiritual journey is always necessary. We need to reenergise our spiritual lives to hear again the mandate of Jesus, “You are my witnesses.” The Church, in relatively recent times, has invested heavily in the renewal movement. We have experienced and many have been beckoned to a Cursillo or a discovery experience. Nothing to fear, but to register and wait to receive a new anointing of the Holy Spirit.
To energise us for the work all around us in our church and in our country, I invite all to renewal, experience Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit. Invest in your spiritual journey and stop the complaining.
Who needs renewal? All, ongoing; it’s not once only once and once for all. This renewal goes beyond coming to mass. Jesus took His disciples and for three years He formed them, trained them, and then set them loose with the mandate, “Go therefore and be my witness”. What is your ministry, what are you doing for Jesus? What does it mean to enthrone Jesus Christ as King.
The testimony given to the early Christians in Acts 17:6-7 is that they were turning their world upside down, contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying there is another king named Jesus. The mandate is ours today to accept Jesus as our king and thus be empowered to turn our world upside down.