“They all seized Sosthenes, the synagogue official, and beat him in full view of the tribunal” (Acts 18:17)
If you read Acts 18:9-18 you might see the story as the Jews looking for a scapegoat for all their problems. From the point of view of Acts, it sure seems that way. The first thing they try to do is to have Paul punished by the Corinthian tribunal for just preaching a message that seemed to go against Jewish traditions. What really must have stung them is that once, Paul, once called Saul, was one of their most zealous of brethren, so the conversion of Paul and his preaching were probably seriously challenging to the “status quo” and they just couldn’t bear to have him around them any longer.
However, something very unexpected happened. When the tribunal dismissed the case, the people suddenly turned on one of their own spiritual leaders, Sosthenes and they started beating him. Even though he presumably did nothing wrong, that simply didn’t matter to them because in their eyes, someone had to suffer for the wrath they felt inside.
Fast forward to today, can you see just how this can actually parallel with our modern world of today? When we get upset with something we feel is an injustice, we feel there must be someone to blame for it all and it must be publicly in order to satisfy our own discontent, even if it really isn’t that person’s fault! We see it all around us, traditionalists blame it on progressives, progressives blame it on traditionalists, blacks blame whites, whites blame blacks. Different groups of people blaming each other, different religions, different countries are all at fault and it’s never us. More than likely, we’ve all been guilty of such behavior!
However, this is NOT the way Jesus wants us to react to things. Instead of battling our way through such an unstable culture of blame and playing the blame game, Jesus instead urges us to practice mercy. He tells us that compassion needs to trump condemnation, that a humble acceptance of our own shortcomings needs to be present instead of demanding that others around us change in order to suit us and our thoughts, ideas and needs. When something that irks us or upsets us shows up we need to take that anger and frustration to the Lord instead. This way we are showing others around us that Christ lives in us by our Christlike reaction to situations around us.
So, how can we all foster these gentler reactions to adversity? The first thing to remember is instead of reacting immediatly, take a moment or two and turn to Jesus with these frustrations and ask Him to take the sting out of what is bothering us. It is His eternal perspective that can make all annoying things seem quite less important. Say a quick prayer for the good of those that you are having issues with or simply do not like. By doing this you glimpse of them through the eyes of God and see them as He sees them. Bring your anger and your frustration a long with those who give you grief to the Lord with an open heart and then allow Him to smooth out all the rough edges in your heart. Let the Lord touch your heart first before you react, then those annoyances that so often can be upsetting will shrink in their importance in your life!
“Here I am, Lord. I bring my anger and frustration to You. Change my heart to be more like Yours. Lord, teach me compassion!”
Remember, there is nothing wrong with stopping and asking Jesus to step in and take over if you find yourself overwhelmed in a situation. He stands waiting always for that request!