Have a blessed Ash Wednesday!
Christians are called to live in this world, yet not become a part of the world. That is a hard balancing act.
Twice in today’s reading, we see Paul tell people he is, or at least once was, just like them (22:3-5, 19-20, 25).
A murderous mob of Jews has descended on Paul at the Temple in Jerusalem. Some have heard he has defiled their sacred space with a unclean Gentile. Others just hate this traitor and want to see him gone. Either way they are ready to rip him limb from limb. Had it not been for the intervention of the low-level Roman tribune, they would have had their way. Paul uses the opportunity to address his accusers. The gist of his remarks are that he once was just like them. A Jew. A well-trained one. A law-respecting one. He too once persecuted Christians. He gets where they are coming from. He once was just like them.
As the chapter continues, the tribune himself orders that Paul be flogged so as to expedite his interrogations. Paul is quick to assert is rights. He is a Roman citizen from birth. He is entitled to a trial. Again, though, we see Paul saying essentially, “I am just like you.”
And yet now Paul is different. He has discovered there is something more important to God than law. He has learned that the Messiah has come in the form of Jesus. He is a Roman, but his ultimate allegiance is to a different Lord than Caesar.
I once was just like you. Now you can become one like me.
Some will like that message because it brings hope and purpose. For other it will only be scandalous and the heat will be turned up.