So, have you had a chance to percolate on the previous article for a couple of days?
I’ve never written a ‘to be continued’ before but I thought I would give it a shot. If you haven’t read “I knew I was right” from a day or two ago please take a minute, or none of this will make any sense.
Honestly, the way I write, it might not make any sense if you read it anyway, but it’s worth a shot.
I decided to continue the article, or at least make it a two-parter when I saw that Acts 16 (the continuation of the passage we were looking at) appeared to be a contradiction of Acts 15.
In theological terms, we call that a bummer. The oxymoronic value of that moment reminded me of those laughably contradictory statements like :
- Act naturally
- Clearly confused
- Pretty ugly
- Hell’s Angels
- Minor crisis
- Seriously funny
- Microsoft Works
- Family Vacation
- Only choice
- Original copies
- Deafening silence
And, this too would have been funny if I hadn’t felt so smug about being right! Don’t sit there smiling, based on your comments, so did you…
So, here’s the problem: in Acts 15, the church said it’s not right to force Gentiles to be circumcised to become believers, in fact, the mantra was, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ac 15:19). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
But, in chapter 16 (by the way, there were no chapter divisions in the original letter, we put those in later to make study easier. Originally, this all flowed together as one big letter), here’s what you get:
Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16 He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ac 16:1-5). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Paul had Timothy (a Greek Gentile) get circumcised because of the Jews who lived in the area…?
Did chapter 15 not happen, or was that in my other Bible of Convenient Truths… you know, the one we keep the Global Warming conspiracy secrets in.
According to verse 4 Paul and his posse were traveling from town to town telling people what the Jerusalem Council had decreed: that the church had become a circumcision free zone. But, all the while he was making those closest to him, his newest leaders, do exactly what he was saying you didn’t have to do.
If I was Timothy listening to that sermon, I’d be a little bit confused… ticked… sore.
This sounds like hypocrisy doesn’t it?
Yep, sure does. But if we see hypocrisy, the problem is we are focusing on the wrong issue.
Paul and Timothy were leaders with a heart for God and mind for leadership. This article is written under the category of Leadership Journals because once again it is written for those of you who have a calling that places you at a higher level of accountability.
You are not allowed to focus on the wrong issues.
How many times have you seen marital disputes violently erupt over stupid issues like who takes the trash out? The issue isn’t about household chores. More likely it’s about respect, trust and years of back-logged feelings.
How many times have you seen a co-worker sabotaged on a project? It’s not because of the project. It’s because of a long history of interpersonal struggle, unresolved conflicts and bad communication.
How many times have you seen a church conflict over little-to-nothing decisions? It’s not about the decision. It’s about the process, the people, the power, the control.
How many times have you seen road rage flare up over a simple driving mistake? It’s not about the driving. It’s about the absence of Prozac.
As a leader, you have to look past the circumstance and grip the issue. Paul and Timothy were doing just that. Even though they were on a Mediterranean world tour broadcasting “Just Say No To Circumcision” to make it easier for Gentile converts to turn to God, when they picked up a Gentile preacher (Timothy) the standards changed.
Why? Because the issue wasn’t circumcision, the issue was how to make it easier for people to turn to God. And, removing circumcision as a barrier made it easier for Gentiles to come to God.
But, the unconverted Jews would never listen to an uncircumcised Gentile. So, even though it was not required. Even though it was spiritually unnecessary. Even though it was painful, old school and would not be required of the general population.
For a leader, the standards are higher because the risks are greater and the cause is larger. Timothy was circumcised because they didn’t want to make it hard for the “Jewish” unbelievers to turn to God.
They found the real issue.
Timothy was not obligated to go through with the…er… procedure. He was completely within his rights to refuse. He had Biblical rights and was carrying a letter from the church saying he was in the clear
But, he did it anyway.
Because as a leader you have a choice: You can be right, or you can be effective.
What’s the real issue?
PS – If you were looking for a direct connection to the title of this article, well, here it is. My wife recently reminded me that she had once bested me on Star Wars trivia by correcting me and correctly attributing the genetic background of the Clone Wars Stormtroopers to Jango Fett as opposed to Bob Fett… I was having an off day. So, maybe I was wrong…