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Friday, May 28, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Acts 23:11-26:32

In the small local church in which I was raised, we had a couple that made life very difficult for others in the community. For the sake of confidentiality, I’ll call the couple Phil and Patricia.

Phil and Patricia had been members of my home church for many, many years. Shortly after their arrival, they got themselves elected to key decision-making positions within the church. They stayed in those positions for years and ruled the community using things like threats, rumor, and innuendo.

As I grew up I remember thinking, “All our problems in the church would be solved if only Phil and Patricia would go away.” Then, the unthinkable happened. Phil and Patricia withdrew their membership and left our local church.

All our problems were immediately solved, right?

Wrong. Within 6 months, another couple moved into the void Phil and Patricia left behind and used the same sort of tools that Phil and Patricia had used.

“What happened?!” I remembered thinking.

It took me years to realize that the problem didn’t lie just within individuals who acted badly. The problem lie within the network of relationships throughout the church that allowed people like Phil and Patricia (and the couple that succeeded them) to act badly.

I wasn’t the first one to realize that problems often go far beyond the scope of the individual(s) involved into larger systems. In today’s reading, in fact, Paul realized this – for during his time of imprisonment Paul found himself dealing with Roman officials ranging from Governor Felix to Governor Festus to King Agrippa. In each case, Paul’s hope was that the official before whom he stood at any given moment would summon the courage to do the right thing and release him. In each case he was disappointed. That was because the problem wasn’t the individual ruler; the problem was a political system that depended upon placating the religious powers-that-be: even if it meant suppressing the truth.

Today I would invite you to survey your life and see if perhaps there is a problem area in your life that you’ve convinced yourself has an easy solution: an area where you’ve allowed yourself to think, “The problem would go away if only so-and-so would get their act together.”

While that line of thinking might contain a degree of truth, chances are the problems go much deeper. Today might be a great opportunity to let go of your simplistic thinking and summon the courage to go deeper as you begin taking on the problem at its very core.

Til next time…

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