Bread – Politics

August 19, 2011


Readings for Friday, August 19, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 19:24-43; Acts 24:24-25:12; Mark 12:35-44; Psalms 140, 141, 142, 143

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The Bible reflects unvarnished reality, and in our reading today from Acts there is the unvarnished reality of politics.

In Acts, we find Paul imprisoned in Caesarea. There, he is under the control of Felix, the governor. Felix, although a Gentile and probably a pagan, was married to a Jewess. It is stated that Felix was “well acquainted with the Way [Jesus Christ].” Acts 24:22 (Parenthetically, isn’t it interesting how we can be well acquainted with something which does not penetrate our brain, our heart, or our soul.) Felix had Paul speak to him on many things, including “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come.” Acts 24:25. This made Felix afraid, but he did not believe.

Now the Jews had levied charges against Paul of stirring up riots, blasphemy, etc. In verse 24:22, Felix says “I will try your case.” However, politics gets in the way and that never happens. Paul is left in prison for two years (with intermittent religious discussions with Felix) “because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews.” Acts 24:27 Here was a man of God, an innocent man, a man whom Felix, the governor of Caesarea, liked, who remained in prison because some powerful Jews wanted him to be in prison because Felix wanted to curry their favor.

After Paul was in prison two years, Felix was succeeded by Festus. Festus is an interesting person because he resists the Jews’ attempts to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, promptly convenes Paul’s court hearing as soon as he gets to Caesarea, and then, after listening to the charges and Paul’s defense, himself succumbs to politics. Festus, “wishing to do the Jews a favor,” then tried to get Paul to agree to go to Jerusalem for trial. Acts 25:9. Sensing the trap, Paul (himself a Roman citizen) insists upon being tried in a Roman court and then, realizing that Festus might well agree to hand Paul over to the Jews, “appeals to Caesar.” Acts 25:11.

In a full demonstration of the effect of politics upon honest decision-making, instead of making the decision that the Jews had not proven their case and that Paul was innocent, Festus punts the ball down the field into Caesar’s court, saying to Paul “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go.” Acts 25:12

Politics perverts justice, it perverts people’s lives (Paul was held in prison for over two years), and it perverts the decision-making process. The Jews had power and they exercised it, the Romans were concerned about it enough to let it affect their legal process, and the net effect was harm to an innocent person.

However, politics has no effect upon God and His purpose. In this vignette of history we see the ugliness of man’s manipulation on the surface and the wonder of God’s working in history below the surface. Just two chapters in Acts before, God said this to Paul – “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Acts 23:11. Where is Caesar’s court? Rome.

God’s will be done.  Amen.

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