[Nov 14]--Pagan Friends

Acts 23:23-35

I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it needs a little more examination. Yes, I know the Scriptures gives us warning that the default setting for the world towards true followers of Jesus is going to be hostility. We should be pleasantly surprised if a non-Christian doesn’t hate us, I guess. Jesus warned us often enough that the servant isn’t greater than the Master, and thus the former shouldn’t expect any better treatment than the latter.

However, the Lord can and does use in his own purposes even those who don’t claim him as their God. He even uses them to protect us at times: I mentioned before the examples of Joseph’s Pharaoh, Cyrus, and Xerxes. I wish it were different, but it seems that one of my all-time greatest heroes, Winston Churchill, doesn’t seem to have had a relationship with Christ. As we read today, not every single pagan leader and official is an avowed enemy of the church.

So we need to be grateful for this. When God, in an example of common grace, gives us relief or even something approaching friendship, we shouldn’t turn it down. Of course, this comes with some qualifications:

• I shouldn’t have to say it, but I guess I need to. Under no circumstances should we compromise the truth of the Good News for the sake of friendship with anyone. Unfortunately, that’s the pattern of friendship with pagans a lot of times: They see our willingness to acknowledge (and reciprocate) their friendship to mean we can now negotiate on Truth. Nope. We can’t. If a nonbeliever is waiting for me to nod my head and pretend that because of our friendship he’s actually in a right standing with God and doesn’t need salvation through Christ, then he can keep waiting. I’m glad that Billy Graham was invited to the White House multiple times. I’m also extremely glad that (to my knowledge) he never compromised on the exclusivity of salvation through Christ.

• Just because a nonbeliever helps us doesn’t give us an excuse to be na├»ve about human nature. I sin, and I have the Holy Spirit inside of me. He doesn’t. Notice how the commander, even as he’s saving Paul’s life, puts his own account of what happened in a light most favorable to him. No, he didn’t come to rescue Paul because he knew that Paul was a Roman citizen. He saw a riot forming, grabbed Paul out of it, and then had him strapped down for a good interrogational whipping. It was only when Paul spoke up about the illegality of the proceedings that the commander gave a hoot about what was just. I could be wrong, but my reading is that the commander was mostly caring about his own career and livelihood. He might've cared somewhat about Paul, but I really believe that if his interests and Paul’s interests didn’t coincide, he wouldn’t have hesitated to throw Paul to the wolves in self-preservation.

And of course this is a reminder that our Father has limitless resources to carry out his plan to our good. We have friends that we don’t even know about. And as someone once told me, Jesus might or might be the only friend I have, but he’s the only one I need.

Father God, I thank you that you do take care of your children. Even people who don’t acknowledge you still fit into your plan to bring glory to your Name and to do good for those you claim as your own. You really do know what you’re doing, don’t you?

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