Freedom to Flourish

You’ve been there. Scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. This once storehouse of pictures of friends’ kids, yummy meals, first days and last days, ball games and special events meant to be celebrated, has now become a landmine of unflattering images of one political candidate or another. One can hardly peruse the news, social media, or even engage in trivial conversation these days without some element of politics rising to the surface. Memes and tweets about fact checking and highlights from the debates usher us to conversations laden with sarcasm and fear. These are troublesome times.

That is where we find the Jewish leaders at the beginning of Acts 4. They are afraid because Peter and John are gaining traction and healing people and telling them about the Resurrection of Jesus. Believing in resurrection was just something Sadducees didn’t do. Their answer was to throw Peter and John in jail. This didn’t seem to phase Peter and John or the crowds of people, because the number of believers continued to grow.

The real question the Jewish Leaders wanted answered was, “By what power or name did you do this?” Charismatic Peter defends, “If we are being called into account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, It is by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified and God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”

The Jewish leaders found themselves in a predicament. These men before them were plain, ordinary men, speaking with authority and confidence. But more than that, there was a former lame man walking around that could not be ignored. It was undeniable that these men had been with Jesus. The only thing that could be done was to stop them from continuing to spread this news of Jesus.

As they sought to shut down this advancement, Peter’s response was, once again, clear. “ Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Even tough the Jewish leaders continued with threats, they had nothing else to stand on, so they let Peter and John go. The believers praised God upon the their return. After hearing all that the Jewish leaders had done, the believers commissioned Peter and John to speak with boldness in spite of threats and advances. The Holy Spirit blessed them and as a result, the people lived in harmony, sharing their possessions and no one was in need. This communion and unity among the believers was a gift of the Holy Spirit. Community was the result.

Throughout this passage we see a colossal contrast between fear and faith.

The Jewish Leaders (fear):

  • were disturbed
  • seized Peter and John
  • threw them in jail
  • gathered and stewed
  • feared the spread of the message of Jesus
  • threatened
  • ultimately gave in when they had no ground to stand on

Peter, John, and the believers (faith):

  • teaching and proclaiming Jesus
  • filled with the Holy Spirit
  • showed kindness
  • healed in the name of Jesus
  • stood firm in conviction
  • calmly stood up to threats
  • remained faithful to the Lord
  • remained committed to the cause
  • praised God
  • spoke the Word of God boldly
  • had unity and communion
  • shared everything they had

Fear stifles. The Jewish leaders were anxious as this Way they did not appreciate or understand was gaining momentum. This Jesus momentum was shifting the allegiance of their own devoted followers. A decline in followers could have an adverse domino effect. Fear counters with strident reaction. Worry, anxiety, rash reactions are the result.

Faith gives freedom to flourish. With faith, one can step with boldness in the face of challenges and uncertainty. As Peter and John are thrown into jail for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus and healing in his name, they respond to the high priest’s fearful accusations with confidence. The Jewish leaders acknowledged this courage and realized that the disciples’ confidence in the Lord was stronger than their fear of what could happen as a result.

Though I’m not comparing the 2016 election and its results to the Way of Jesus and His resurrection, November 8th is going to come and go. We are going to face other unknown, possibly challenging circumstances in our lives. We can choose to approach uncertainty with fear or faith. Regardless of the end result, we must choose to be confident and say with conviction as Peter, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.” Daily, we face this choice. Choose faith. Choose freedom. Choose to flourish. Choose Jesus.

Summer Morris, Children’s Family Minister

North Davis Church of Christ, Arlington, TX