Monday, June 2, 2008

Acts: Lystra (14:8-18)

In the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden there is a painting entitled Jupiter and Mercury at Philemon and Baucis’ House. A 15th Century painting of the old Greek moral tale by Ovid, it depicts a fable of a town near Galatia that the gods visited in disguise and how the old couple, Philemon and Baucis were the only ones to offer them any hospitality.
It was just a few decades after the publication of this fable that Paul and Barnabas showed up in Lystra. There they healed a man and were taken to be Jupiter and Mercury in disguise. Think of what a great “platform” this would have made for the missionaries! It may seem a small stretch from what Paul does later in Antioch.
Of course, the mistaken identity was a lie, and upset the messengers greatly. They could not begin their efforts based on a lie. This is a cautionary tale for modern day missions. It is very important to consider and evaluate the way in which both the messengers and the message are introduced into a culture. Do not mistake openness toward Americans to be the same thing as excitement for the Gospel. There are some who want to be friends with someone from a prosperous country and all that that relationship could provide, and have no desire to hear the Gospel. Worse yet, there are those who will say whatever is needed in order to advance that relationship.
Another danger is to use platforms not out of need, but out of comfort. Circumstances often require people to adopt a job other than “Missionary,” but some just like the lack of stigma. In many cases can make missions a “bait-and-switch” endeavor, and people usually see through such ploys and resent them. Do not seek acceptance at any cost.

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