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#carmelprays – Acts 23:12-35

Opening Song: Compassion Hymn

Read Scripture: Acts 23:12-35

We see Paul as an apostle powerfully anointed by God, blazing a Christian trail through the ancient world of his time, lighting hearts on fire, and leaving behind letters that still mold the spiritual lives of people today. But in this passage, Paul is at the mercy of both the Jews and the Romans. 

It’s astounding that 40 men could vow not to eat or drink until they killed Paul. How much anger and hatred do you need to have in you to bind yourself by oath to fast until you take the life of a man? The most incredible thing is Paul was one of their elites, born into the upper echelons of Jewish society. Yet, they decided he had to be killed for his Christian views. 

Then we have the Romans, who wanted to protect Paul because they discovered he was a Roman citizen. There are 40 men waiting to ambush Paul for his life? Then we will send 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen to deliver Paul to the governor for his protection! (v23) 

Who do we see as one of us? Who is our neighbor?

This has been a year where an invisible virus called COVID-19 infiltrated most of the world, shutting down human systems and revealing human hubris. No one is immune. We are not in control. It takes an epidemic to show us we are all the same. 

Despite this, we see telling divisions rise up even in a purportedly harmonious, fair, and just society like Singapore. Singapore was internationally lauded for how she dealt with the Coronavirus earlier this year, and then faced global criticism for how she had so willfully ignored the plight of the foreign workers only a few weeks later.

This is a world increasingly fractured: geographical boundaries, political factions, ideological binaries, socioeconomic partitions, cultural fissures…Classism, sexism, racism, every kind of ‘ism’ imaginable. Us against them, you versus me. Do we make an effort only when we think another is “one of us”, but turn a blind eye to those who are considered “other”? Yet, who is the “other”? 

Paul was both a Jew and a Roman citizen.
One group rejected and wanted to kill him. 
The other, to protect him. 

If we want to demarcate ourselves from others based on differences, the boundary lines are endless. No one will be a sister or brother or neighbor, not even within the same family. But if we choose to focus on what binds people together, we don’t have to look towards nationality, race, or religion. Every person is created in the image of God, imbued with the inherent dignity and potential for redemption God has given each human being. 

Ultimately, how we treat others, and the resources we choose to give – whether for good or evil, depends on how we view others. 
Who do we see as one of us? 
Who is our neighbor?

Pray in Response

Father, thank You for the mercy and compassion You show us every day. Truly, it by Your great love that we are not consumed. Your compassions never fail and are new every morning. Father, we do not want to take Your love and grace for granted. May we turn from our self-centered ways and allow You to be the center of our life, thoughts, words and actions. Grant us a heart that is sensitive to Your ways, a mind that perceives with Your Spirit, and eyes that look at others through Your eyes. That the people we interact with will know You by our love. Amen.

Response Song: By Our Love

By Lim Shi

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