Acts 13:14, 43-52
Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga
and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.
Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism
followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them
and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.
On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered
to hear the word of the Lord.
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy
and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.
Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,
“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,
but since you reject it
and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,
we now turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
that you may be an instrument of salvation
to the ends of the earth.”
The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord.
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.
The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers
and the leading men of the city,
stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,
and expelled them from their territory.
So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them,
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
It is never popular to follow Him. So why are we surprised that, in our time, Christians increasingly are persecuted?
We each must prepare for the time when we, too, will be harassed, hated, and ostracized for believing in and loving Him. The time may come when we, too, may be called to be martyrs for our faith.
What will you do? Decide now.
So why do we keep the faith?
Is it because of the rewards that our Lord had promised us? — that to those who hear His voice and follow Him, He gives “them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28)?
Is it because, as St. John foresaw in his vision (Revelation 7), that those who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” will “stand before God’s throne” and “will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”?
No, we endure and will endure abuse and persecution because we love Him — with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and with all our strength.
And so, when we are reviled for being faithful Christians, we each nonchalantly will “shake the dust from our feet,” “pick up our cross,” and be “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit”.
May the joy and peace and love of our Lord Jesus the Christ be with you!