We can’t miss how much of a contrast the book of Acts shows us. We see Philip traveling and doing great things in the name of Jesus. People are deciding to follow Jesus. Community is being built. Great things are happening because of the disciple’s faithfulness and we see some of those highlighted in chapter 8. Yet, chapter 9 opens us to remind us that bad things are happening as well.
Paul had continued his persecution of the church. He had been hunting down those who were part of the church (the way as it was called then) and putting them in prison, even murdering them. He was on a mission to stomp out the church and as they scattered to find freedom from persecution Paul followed. He asked for the approval to travel to different cities and find those who were part of the church and bring them back to Jerusalem to face their punishment.
At this point in time, I would totally understand why someone would be kinda sad about their situation. Run out of your home. Hunted for your faith. Persecuted by what you thought were your friends and neighbors. People you know and care about murdered for claiming the truth.
You could also say this was an exciting time. God was moving. People were being baptized. Small communities were popping up all over the area. The world was being turned upside down and the early church was a part of making that happen. For the first time ever, the Holy Spirit was living inside of people and there was a new freedom from the law and sacrifices because of the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. This could easily be argued as the greatest point in church history.
I think one thing we can take away from this sharp contrast we continue to see is a great deal of how we view the world around us depends on what we decide to focus on. You could focus on the fact that you’ve been displaced. You could focus on the fact that you’ve been persecuted. You could focus on all the negative things and life would look really negative.
You could focus on all the good though. Just pretend that nothing bad is happening, don’t talk about the struggles, only acknowledge the great things and the exciting things and the good things and just live in the rose colored world of “everyday a Friday” living your “best life now” as you work through the “battlefield of the mind” to find your “unmerited favor!”
Or you can be honest. You can see that there are good things and there are bad ones. There are some things worth rejoicing in. Some things worth weeping for. Some things are worth a time of silence and mourning. Others deserve a celebration. The bad in this life can’t block out and ruin all the good that comes as well. In the same way, the good doesn’t just negate the bad so that we don’t talk about it and pretend we’re okay. No instead, we go through every moment together. We lean on Christ and our community. We listen to the leading of His Spirit. We rejoice together in our joys and mourn together in our losses.