Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: "Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!"
Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. But Paul said to him, "God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?"
— Acts 23:1-3 NLT
Paul could honestly say that he had lived with a good conscience before God. That didn't mean he was always correct. He had viciously persecuted Christians because he had passion without proper understanding.* The high priest of Israel, however, took offense and had Paul slapped in the mouth. Paul reacted immediately and spoke back to the person in charge — he did not realize that the person who ordered him slapped was the high priest (Acts 23:4-5). Two observations are worth noting:
- When we compare the high priest's actions with those of the Roman commander in charge of Paul, the high priest is revealed as unfair, uninformed, and overly harsh.**
- While Paul's words to the high priest are true, they do not reflect Paul's desired approach with critics (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), especially when he realized that this was the high priest he was addressing with these harsh words.
I don't know about you, but both observations convict me. I need to be fairer with others and let them properly explain themselves when we are in disagreement. I also need to not be too self-condemning when I fail to meet my desired behavior standards. Instead, I need to genuinely apologize and make sure I show respect to those in authority, whether they deserve that respect or not. In our fractured and divided world today, both commitments are important for me. How about you?
Father, I want to reflect your grace to those who mistreat me and who hold me as their enemy. I want to love them as Jesus called me to love them in both his words and his actions. When I fail at this, I need your help not to dismiss it as acceptable but also not to beat myself up unnecessarily. I ask for the Holy Spirit's help to find creative ways to redeem the situation through genuine apology and sincere respect, especially for those in positions of authority. Guide me, O God, so that I can be a trustworthy servant to you and a blessing to others. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.