By Trisha Goddard
More often than not, the enemy is hard at work to see the body of Christ dysfunctional, tearing each other down, and planting seeds of jealousy. A few years ago, our ministry here in Paraguay was flourishing and the opportunities to train, equip, mobilize, and partner were never ending.
Unfortunately, we came into tension with what we were being asked to do by leaders and what we felt God was leading us to do. After examining ourselves and our intentions, seeking input from other leaders and mentors who serve alongside us here in Asunción, and much prayer, we chose an option that we knew was not going to be popular with our current leaders. Very few of our “friends” stood with us. Emails were sent. Phone calls made. Many people were told to have no contact with us whatsoever. Those were not easy days. We were labeled “troublemakers”, and yet we experienced growth in our own lives and saw firsthand God at work in Paraguay among the Nationals and First Nations.
In Acts 24, Paul is brought before Governor Felix by the high priest Ananias, some of the elders, and a lawyer named Tertullus.
"When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly. We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so, we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him. The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.” (Acts 24:2-9)
Tertullus flattered the governor with his words and left no room for doubt that Paul was a troublemaker. No one seemed willing to step up and set the record straight. In fact, others joined in the accusations.
As we continue reading in Acts 24:10, I wonder if Governor Felix saw through Tertullus and the Jews' tactics and decided to get to the “root of the issue” as he motioned for Paul to speak. Paul recognized Governor Felix’s position and encouraged him to check out what his group of accusers were charging him with. He admits to worshiping God and explains what he had been doing after a time of absence in the region. He tells the truth, that there are others who have reason to accuse him, but that Tertullus, the high priest Ananias, and some of the elders “should state what crime they found in me" (vss 10-21).
Governor Felix listens to Paul and decides to wait for the commander, Lysias, before deciding what to do with him. Over a two-year period, Governor Felix sent for Paul frequently and talked with him. At one visit "Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, [and] Felix was afraid.” Governor Felix "was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe”. But because he “wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.” (Acts 24:24-27)
Paul spoke the truth, even when labeled a troublemaker. He was God’s chosen instrument (Acts 9:15), obedient to what God called Him to do. He accomplished a lot through his missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting new churches and training up leaders, despite encountering jealousy and dysfunction along the way.
When my husband and I were called troublemakers, we had a similar choice. We chose to speak the truth. It would have been easy to become bitter and seek revenge, because no one likes being called a troublemaker, especially when they aren’t one. But God used this growing experience in our lives as a couple and as a family to learn the importance of extending grace, loving those who have hurt us, and forgive, because...
"Life is an adventure in forgiveness. It is all about releasing and reaching. Release the past and reach for the future. The only way to do this is to love like you've never been hurt. This means loving so intensely that it overrides all your natural instincts for bitterness and revenge. You will never get ahead trying to get even. When you have been wronged, a poor memory is your best response. Want to learn to love like you've never been hurt? Start forgiving.” (Love Like You've Never Been Hurt, Jentezen and Cherise Franklin)