Acts 9:23 After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill (Saul, the former pharisee and persecutor of Christians whom Jesus called to become a Christian apostle), 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. 26 When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples (the ones he had been persecuting before his conversion); and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He spoke and argued with the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews); but they were attempting to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus (his hometown). 31 Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
As I mentioned before, Saul would later become known as the apostle Paul who was a key figure in the development of the early church and author of several books of the New Testament. I get why the Christians in Jerusalem were initially afraid of him. He’d been an enemy of the church until Jesus struck him down on the way to Damascus and called him to be a Christian apostle instead.
V.28 indicates a repeating rhythm as Saul went in with his fellow Christians and then went out to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Reminds me of a pendulum that swings from one side to the other. There is gathering and sending. Repeat. As I think about my own local church over the last three years we (understandably) focused more on gathering than sending. Frankly, for a while it just wasn’t safe to go out. Fortunately things are better three years into the pandemic if not 100% safe.
But to be honest “safe” wasn’t really a chief concern for the early Christians. In fact, the more unsafe it became for them the faster the church grew. As I think about directions for 2023 I think it’s time for us to swing from the “in” to the “out” side of things. It’s in sharing the good news of Jesus in word and deed – out there – that we reach those who would never walk through the doors of our church.
Lord Jesus, give us grace to overcome our fear and venture “out” into our world as we are intended. Amen.