Friday, January 6, 2017

The Art of Persuasion

Acts 26
5 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

As Paul is brought before King Agrippa, he recounts his story on how he was a Pharisees and hunted down Christians, because of his zeal for Judaism. He even went to foreign cities to find them and cast votes to have them killed. Then, he described his conversion, as he and his colleagues were blinded by the light and Jesus appeared to them and said, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me." Paul tells of the vision God gave him to testify to what he has seen to his Jewish brothers, and also to the Gentiles.

At this, Festus interrupts and tells him that his learning is driving him insane. Paul retorts by saying there is nothing unreasonable with what he is saying. Why? 1.) The Jewish scriptures pointed to the fact that the Messiah would suffer, die and be raised again. 2.) Is it unreasonable to believe God could raise someone from the dead if he is in fact God? 3.) Finally, these things have happened out in open, in public view. There is nothing secret about what we proclaim about Jesus. It happened and there are eyewitnesses. There were real people, who really lived at the time of these events, and even Agrippa had heard about it.

Agrippa responds to Paul by thinking he is trying to convert him. Paul sees this opportunity as a chance to share his newfound faith with the king. Agrippa responds by going on the defensive and saying, "Do you think you can convert me so quickly?" Another version translates this verse something to the effect, "thou dost almost persuade me", meaning that Agrippa, a Jew, knew the prophets and Paul's sharing was very reasonable in light of it. He appears to be on the verge of fully embracing what Paul is preaching, and yet we do not know if he ever did.

I find it interesting that often when people find out you are a Christian, they assume you are trying to convert them. This can be because many Christians in their zeal try to convert someone as soon as they meet them. Our timing is not always God's timing to bring someone to salvation. Maybe we are just called to have a relationship with someone. A better strategy may be to get to know them over a cup of coffee. Or help them out in some practical way.I.e. Bring over a meal. We can't convert anyone, but God can. Paul realizes that he can't convert Agrippa, but he can share the Good News of how he has met Jesus and his life has been changed.

Agrippa leaves the scene realizing Paul had done nothing deserving death and sends him to Rome upon his appeal to Caesar. More adventures await Paul as he travels to Rome in the chapters ahead.

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