Acts 22:22-26 (HCSB)
22 They listened to him up to this word. Then they raised their voices, shouting, “Wipe this person off the earth—it’s a disgrace for him to live!” 23 As they were yelling and flinging aside their robes and throwing dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be examined with the scourge, so he could discover the reason they were shouting against him like this. 25 As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, “What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”
Paul had an ace up his sleeve. He didn’t get whipped because he had rights as a Roman citizen. Now, Paul didn’t go around with an “I Heart Rome” t-shirt, but he wasn’t scared to use his citizenship to his advantage, either. He was living out the biblical principle of “in the world, not of the world.” Peter calls it “resident aliens.”
On the one hand, we are strangers here. Philippians 3:20 (HCSB) reminds us: 20 but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, we are residents. We live here, pay our taxes, go to work in the economy, vote in the elections, attend the PTA meetings, etc., etc.
The trick is finding the right balance. Too much emphasis on “resident” and Jesus might say the salt has lost its saltiness. Too much emphasis on “alien” and we ostracize ourselves.
Paul seems to have found the balance: he is standing up for the cross at personal expense, but he is exercising his rights to do so. When those rights are infringed upon, he calls foul. Paul was a great man of faith because this wasn’t just theory for him. His freedom to speak was important to him because he was out in the streets speaking.
We Americans of faith are crying foul a lot these days about some of our freedoms slipping away. And rightly so! But for most of us it’s just a theoretical discussion. I hear pastors decry the government telling them what they “can and cannot preach” – but they are too concerned about offending people to preach on controversial topics anyway. In the meantime, some groups like Hobby Lobby and Focus on the Family are out there following Paul’s lead.
Let’s commit as Christians and Americans…as resident aliens…to USE our freedoms and to pray for those in the battle.