Psalm 47:2-7; John 16:20-23
They all seized Sosthenes, the synagogue official, and beat him in full view of the tribunal. (Acts 18:17)
Were the Jews in this story looking for a scapegoat for their troubles? It certainly seems that way. First, they tried to have Paul punished by the Corinthian tribunal for simply preaching a message that seemed to go against their cherished traditions. Once among the most zealous of their brethren, Paul’s conversion and subsequent preaching were seriously challenging the status quo, and they couldn’t bear to have him around.
But then something unexpected happened. When the tribunal dismissed the case, the people turned on one of their own spiritual leaders, Sosthenes, and began beating him. Presumably, he had done nothing wrong, but that didn’t matter. Someone had to suffer their wrath.
Can you see the parallel with our modern world? We are upset, and someone must take the blame—publicly—to satisfy our discontent, even if it isn’t that person’s fault! Traditionalists blame progressives. Progressives blame traditionalists. Blacks blame whites. Whites blame blacks. Different groups of people, different religions, different countries are at fault—never us!
But this isn’t the way Jesus wants us to react. Rather than battling our way through an unstable culture of blame, he urges us to practice mercy. Compassion should trump condemnation, a humble acceptance of our own shortcomings instead of demanding others change to suit us. When something that irks you appears, can you show that Christ lives in you by your Christlike reaction to it?
How can we foster these gentler reactions? Instead of reacting immediately, we can take a moment to turn to Jesus with our frustrations and ask him to take the sting out of them. His eternal perspective can make annoying things seem less important. A quick prayer for the good of those you dislike can give you a glimpse of them as God sees them. Bring them to the Lord with an open heart, and let him smooth the rough places in your heart. Let him touch your heart first; then the annoyances that can be so upsetting will shrink in importance.
“Here I am, Lord. I bring my anger and frustration to you. Change my heart to be more like yours. Lord, teach me compassion.”~WAU