Preaching into Poison

“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel…

“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:1-7,19-22

Poison in the culture is nothing new. Opposing opinions, vehement passions, divided loyalties. In every generation and nation there are people with varying and fervid allegiances, whether to gods or philosophies, diets or political views, that unsettle any semblance of peace and unanimity. How are we to handle the twist and pull and vitriol? What do we say to accusations and jaded attaboys?

The early apostles, in the midst of such an atmosphere, zeroed in on a singular aim. Undeterred by nay-saying, they spoke boldly for the Lord, bore witness to the word of His grace, and preached the gospel. They were so assured of their calling, and so confident in their message, that this was the only way to speak into and counteract opposition. They knew the truth of Jesus was the only message that could shed clarifying light, penetrate the misguided reason, and melt the most rebellious heart. And if that message was rejected long enough, they moved on to preach elsewhere. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 9:15-16)

When we encounter acrid conversations, where words get caustic and critical and ugly, how do we respond? Do our emotions churn into a tit-for-tat? When the atmosphere is tense or toxic, do our defenses and temper rise? It’s vital we prepare ahead for how we can turn the talk to inject truth. How might we elevate the conversation? What questions can we ask that stir thoughts of God? What topics inspire significant discussion over catty chatter? How will we introduce the gospel that transforms by grace?

And sometimes, we preach best by walking away. Will we trust Jesus for discernment to know, and boldness to go? (Matthew 10:14)

Lord, make my words an antidote to the poison around me. Keep me faithful to proclaim Your good news, and lift You high as the living, saving God. (Acts 14:15)

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