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We Shouldn't Just Shrug Our Shoulders at Political Correctness

We Shouldn't Just Shrug Our Shoulders at Political Correctness

By Julian Mann
October 28, 2018

How seriously do we take evangelism? How much does evangelism, the communication of the saving good news of the Lord Jesus and people coming to believe in him, matter to us?

Paul the Apostle took evangelism with the utmost seriousness and so he took the threats against evangelism very seriously as well.

After being converted to saving faith in Christ and commissioned as Christ's Apostle to the Gentiles, Saul, this terrible one-time persecutor of Christians, this former violent religious fanatic, joined the Christian Church in Antioch in Roman Syria.

Then, as we heard in Acts 13, whilst the church family in Antioch together with its prophets and teachers were worshipping the Lord and fasting, they received a message from the Holy Spirit. Saul and Barnabas were to be set apart for a work of the Lord to which they had been called by the Lord's Holy Spirit. This work was their first missionary journey, probably undertaken in around 48 AD.

Accompanied by John Mark, Saul and Barnabas sailed from the Antiochene port of Seleucia to Cyprus, Barnabas's home island. On arriving in Salamis, Saul and Barnabas proclaimed the word of God, the gospel of the Lord Jesus, in the Jewish synagogues. There were Jewish synagogues in the main population centres around the eastern Roman Empire and these were the result of the Diaspora, the scattering of the Jewish people after the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in the 6th Century BC.

Saul and Barnabas followed the principle of going to the Jewish synagogue first because the Lord Jesus was and is the Jewish Messiah. Thereafter they spread the message further afield and went around the whole island of Cyprus until they got to its administrative capital, Paphos, where the Roman proconsul, the governor of the island, was based.

We see in Paphos the confrontation between Saul, now in Gentile territory using his Greco-Roman name Paul, and the Jewish sorcerer and false prophet, Bar-Jesus, also called Elymas, meaning sorcerer. Elymas was trying to keep the Roman pro-consul Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man and wanted to hear the word of God, from becoming a Christian.

Paul gives Elymas a real tongue-lashing: 'You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right. You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?' (Acts 13v10 - NIV).

Paul back to Saul, his former nasty self, do we think? What he says sounds rather unchristian if we are inclined to think that being a Christian is about being nice all the time.

But v9 indicates how we should regard Paul's conduct here: 'Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said...' Filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul was saying what God wanted him to say and we should note that he does not lay a violent hand on Elymas. He used to lay violent hands on those he considered God's enemies but this time Paul tells Elymas that it is the hand of the Lord that is against him and that he is going to be blind for a while.

This miraculous blinding of Elymas convinces the Roman pro-consul of the truth of the word of God. The Roman governor becomes a Christian, a believer in the Lord Jesus, through the apostolic ministry of Paul.

When we think about our own commitment to evangelism, it's important to reflect on Paul's engagement with Elymas here. Is this how I should speak generally to people who are opposing the gospel?

Actually, no, and it's important to understand why. Paul was an Apostle, personally commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ as his sent messenger to the Gentiles. He was able to perform the miracles associated with being an Apostle of the Lord. I am not an Apostle and I don't perform miracles and I am also not a Jew. The way Paul, full of Holy Spirit, spoke to Elymas, a fellow Jew, is very resonant of the Old Testament Jewish prophetic tradition, the way the prophets of the Old Testament used to address false prophets - very blunt, very direct, no sugar-coating or mincing of words.

So, there are unique features to Paul's Apostolic ministry here that I cannot imitate and should not even try.

But what I should imitate and what we need to imitate is Paul's commitment to evangelism, Paul's passion for people becoming Christians.

And the practical reality is that if I am passionate for people getting saved, I am going to be passionately against the forces that prevent people from being saved.

I am not just going to shrug my shoulders about, for example, political correctness. This is now a very powerful force in Western society, and in our country, that sets out to privilege certain minority groups which were not particularly numerous or influential when the West was broadly Christian, people such as homosexuals, transsexuals and indeed adherents to non-Christian faiths. Political correctness dictates that you cannot say anything against homosexuality or transgenderism or Islam because, if you do so, you are abusing power.

Now, of course, it is possible to be personally abusive in speech and sadly Twitter is full of that and that is very wrong. But for Christians to state what the Bible teaches about the God-created nature of the sexes, male and female in the image of God; for Christians to speak up for the God-created purpose of sexual love exclusively within heterosexual marriage; for Christians to declare that the Lord Jesus is the only way to God -- that is not an abuse of power; that is the right and godly thing to do.

But the culture of political correctness is trying to silence Christians and to prevent them from speaking out on these issues.

If I am to imitate Paul's godly passion for the word of God getting out into the open and people being saved, I can't just shrug my shoulders about political correctness and think it doesn't matter that much.

So, in this first missionary journey, we see Paul's passion for people being saved and Paul's passionate opposition to the threats against people being saved. And that is exemplary for us.

This is an edited version of a sermon on Acts 13 preached in the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge

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