Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Persecution: Acts 14 with poem by W. M. Praed, Intolerance

Daily Readings
Psalm 14, Genesis 15, Isaiah 16, Acts 14

Daily Text: Acts 14

Wherever they went in Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the word, won converts were persecuted, and fled. But their fleeing was misleading for having gone to the far border of the province, they returned by the same route they had originally come, went back into the same cities where they had suffered opposition, harassment, threat, and stoning. There they encouraged their converts, organized the church by appointing leaders, and went on to the next city where they had been unwanted. This continued until they arrived back in the original Antioch of their commissioning.

Paul must have made an indelible impression, especially in Iconium for in the second century Acts of Paul, there is our best description of what he looked like and historians believe it to be fairly well founded on local tradition. “One Onesiphorus, a resident in Iconium, sets out to meet Paul, who is on his way to the city. ‘And he saw Paul approaching, a man small in size, with meeting eyebrows, with a rather large nose, bald-headed, bow-legged, strongly built, full of grace, for at times he looked like a man, and at times he had the face of an angel’” [549:288].

There is much demeaning of the value of persecution in literature. For example, Sir Thomas Browne,1605-1682 wrote: “Persecution is a bad and indirect way to plant religion” [413:86:15]. Baron Macaulay , 1800-1859 in his History of England sarcastically noted that “Persecution produced its natural effect on them. It found them a sect; it made them a faction” [413:325:35]. On the other hand, Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745, in his discussion of state religion in his Thoughts on Religion, wrote, “I never saw, heard, nor read, that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the country. Nothing can render them popular but some degree of persecution” [413:520:37].

In Acts, however, persecution seems to have provided a continual impetus for further mission work and the effective spread of the young church. Kenneth Scott Latourette,1953, wrote: “So radical are the claims of the Gospel, so sweeping are its demands on the faithful, so uncompromising does it render those who yield themselves fully to it, that opposition and even persecution are to be expected” [40:81]. And again, “Crude and misinformed though many of the criticisms of Christianity were, here was an awareness that a force was entering the world which if given free scope would overturn the existing culture. Dimly, to be sure, and imperfectly, but with an appreciation of the actualities, non-Christians sensed that because of its revolutionary nature, its uncompromising character, and its claim on the allegiance of all man kind, Christianity was more to be feared by the established order than any of its many competitors….”[40:82].

W.M. Praed, 1802-1839

And when religious sects ran mad,
He held, in spite of all his learning,
That if a man’s belief is bad,
It will not be improved by burning.


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