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Using Politics to God’s Advantage

November 30, 2007

I recently read through the book of Acts, and noticed something interesting about the Apostle Paul.  Paul was not only an amazing theologian, but he was an adept at using the political system at the time.  The example is in Acts 22:24-29:

24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. 25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, [11] Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

What I find interesting here is that Paul uses all the rights he has available to him here.  He doesn’t simply accept flogging from the Roman authorities, but challenges their right to flog him.  Notice, he doesn’t overplay his hand and insist he be freed.  He doesn’t make a nuisance of himself; he has been flogged before, typically by Jewish authorities who don’t care about his Roman citizenship.  He is willing to stand trial for his beliefs, and willing to be persecuted for belief in Christ, but he insists on his full rights as a Roman Citizen.  He later uses his right of appeal to the Emperor to get to Rome and to preach before the Emperor of Rome himself (or at least to make the attempt).

Paul shows us the importance of knowing our rights as citizens of our nation.   He uses his rights as a Roman Citizen to further the gospel, and sees no reason to suffer in ways he can legally avoid.  Interesting thoughts, especially in a Christian culture that tends to clumsily use the legal system, and suffer needlessly while doing so.

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