July 17, 2011

Hearing the Drummer

How do you feel when you get in trouble for doing something right? Do you feel persecuted? The First Letter of Peter says, “For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:19-21) That's not a very comforting passage. I wonder if Peter was thinking back to his early ministry when he wrote those words.

At first everything was going well. Crowds of people were converted. “Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles…the people held them in high esteem…believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women.” Not only that, “they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by…” (Acts 5:12-16)

It must have been a heady sensation for Peter and the other apostles. I’m sure he knew he was doing the work of God and fulfilling Christ’s call on his life.

Not everyone was thrilled with these sensational happenings. The high priest “being filled with jealousy” arrested the apostles. However, an angel releases them from jail so that in the morning, the temple guards report, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” (Acts 5:23)

The apostles are discovered preaching in the Temple again and brought before the Council. “We told you not to preach,” they tell Peter and the others. They answer bravely “We must obey God rather than human authority.” (Acts 5:28-29) These were no longer the backward, provincial fishermen of two months earlier. They were not intimidated even by the rulers of the people.

It is then that Gamaliel, a Pharisee stands up. He reminds his fellow leaders of other supposed messiahs like Theudas and Judas the Galilean. Then he says, “if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” (Acts 5:38-39) 

The Christian rock group DC Talk sings about this choice in My Will "If it's Your will, then nothing can shake me."
I'm setting the stage for the things I love, And I'm now the man I once couldn't be
Nothing on earth could now ever move me, I now have the will and the strength a man needs

It's my will, and I'm not moving, Cause if it's Your will, then nothing can shake me
It's my will, to bow and praise You, now have the will to praise my God

Complexity haunts me for I am two men, Entrenched in a battle that I'll never win
My discipline fails me, my knowledge it fools me, but You are my shelter, all the strength that I need

I'm learning to give up the rights to myself, the bits and the pieces I've gathered as wealth
Could never compare to the joy that You bring me, The peace that You show me is the strength that I need

Don't you know we've got to be children of peace
It's Your will, It's Your will
 DC Talk video

The council orders the apostles beaten and tell them not to preach Jesus. Instead of stopping or intimidating the leaders of the movement, “they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name…[and] did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. (Acts 5:40-41)

It is easy to give up when the ‘going gets tough’ and when we meet opposition to our calling. Henry David Thoreau says, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Our drummer is our Lord. When armies used to march into battle the drummer, kept beat so that the troops stayed together and marched in formation.

Christ, our drummer, leads the way. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps…When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (I Peter 2:21-24)

Our Lord Jesus is our drummer. It is when we return to listening to God’s music and God’s call that we know “For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)

Each of us follows a drummer. Who or what is the drum-beat of your life?

Next week we’ll look at the courage of the first martyr of the church-Stephen. He reminds us that sometimes the drummer leads into battle, but not all return home.

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