“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: ‘Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.'” (Acts 14:14-15)
The context of this verse is Paul and Barnabus’ visit to Lystra. While they were there they came across a man who was born with crippled feet and had never walked. After this man listened to Paul speak, Paul looked at him directly and said, “Stand up!” The man not only stood up, the Bible says he jumped up and began to walk. What Paul and Barnbus reacted to was what happened next. The men of the town saw what happened and they began calling Paul and Barnabus gods. They rushed to worship them by bringing bulls to be sacrificed and wreaths for them to wear on their heads. They called Barnabus Zeus and Paul they called Hermes. In their furvor the people of Lystra said, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”
If you’re unfamiliar with Greek mythology like I was here is a little tutorial. Hermes was the son of Zeus. He was known as Zeus’ messenger. He would move freely between heaven and earth and the underworld. He was the link between the mortals and the Olympians.
Isn’t it ironic? These men were searching for the exact thing that Paul and Barnabus were there to tell them. God, the one and only true God, had come to them in human form through His Son, Jesus. Jesus was the messenger of God’s good news. Through His death and resurrection they could have freedom, forgiveness, and eternal life. These men of Lystra were so close to the truth and yet so far.
What is so inspirational to me about this story is Paul and Barnabus’ reaction. It was in striking contrast to the worshipful atmosphere that was suddenly surrounding them. Not only did they not want to be mistaken for the false gods of that culture, they also didn’t want to be mistaken for the One true God they were there to represent. They were so distraught they tore their clothes and immediately began to speak against what the people were saying about them.
Like Lystra, we live in a culture today that is hungry for the Truth. We are surrounded by false gods in every corner of the American society. They may not be gods as distinguishable as the Greek gods of mythology but the appetite for fulfillment from those that pursue these gods is no less voracious. We, as the Body of Jesus, are here as God’s messenger. We are continuing the mission Jesus started under His authority and empowered by His Holy Spirit. We are here to point people to the Only God who can save them, the only God they can have true relationship with, the only God who loves them more than they could ever ask or imagine. We may not be in the situation that Paul and Barnabus were. We may not have people mistaking us for gods and trying to worship us but dare I say, many of our pastors are.
We, as the body, must guard our hearts against the idolatry of our own church pastors. Too often I hear the praises being sung for them. Clothes should be tearing at the sound of those praises. If they are not being torn by our pastors, then we, The Body, ought to be tearing our own clothes. We must be vigilant that above all we are pointing people to the only One who saves, not the man or woman standing at the front of our church on Sunday mornings. There will be no room for god-like egos in the Body if no one is worshiping them.
Lord, guard our hearts, that we may be completely sold out to You and to spreading Your message of good news to those who need to hear it. Lord, make all of us diligent in pointing people to you as one Body under one Head, Your Son, Jesus. Thank you for your love and for your message of salvation that is for everyone. Make us faithful messengers. In Jesus name, amen.