Saturday, May 8, 2010



My meditation reading from Acts 18 this morning began “After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.” Talk about a step down! He’d just finished preaching in the areopagus, in the intellectual hub and cultural cradle of Greek civilization, the home of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Now he had arrived at ancient Greece’s most important trade city, situated on an isthmus that made it the connecting link between the East and Rome.

Corinth was a cosmopolitan melting pot of half a million people. Her streets teemed with merchants, sailors, gamblers and all sorts of unsavory types. The 1,000 “religious” prostitutes at the temple of Aphrodite poisoned the city’s culture and morals, which didn’t need any help in that regard since Corinth was a busy seaport and already boasted plenty of prostitutes both male and female. People came from all over the Roman empire to enjoy the lax moral atmosphere. Most of the Corinthians had lived in this godless society their whole lives, and the idea of tolerating incest had not seemed so terrible to them (1 Cor. 5) This was the situation Paul found when he arrived about the year 51 in this unlikely place to preach the gospel. He apparently didn't know anyone in town, and so went to a local synagogue hoping to find a welcome among his Jewish brothers and sisters. The account in Acts continues:

There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word,
testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’

Things had obviously not gone very well with the Jews in Corinth, but there were still some who accepted the message:

Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshipper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized. One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.’ He stayed there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:1-11)

And so, inspite of Corinth’s notorious reputation and the opposition of the local Jews, the Lord used Paul to establish there a thriving Christian community.


The verse I meditated on this morning was 18:9, “One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.’” Paul drew encouragement from the Lord’s reassurance, “Do not be afraid.” But I wondered whether the dream and the vision were simply a literary device to tell us that Paul drew reassurance and courage from the people around him: Aquila and Priscilla, Silas and Timothy, Titus Justus, Crispus and his family, and others not mentioned by Luke.

In difficult situations Jesus doesn’t appear to me in a dream, but he certainly has ways of telling me “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” He says this especially through the loving support of my brothers in the monastery, but also through the care and concern of relatives and friends. If I know how to watch and listen I'll hear Jesus telling me every day the same thing he told Paul in that wild city of Corinth, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”

1 comment:

  1. I just want you to know how much I enjoy this blog. All of this history of the bible made me want to learn more. I recently purchased a new testament to learn more myself. I used to only listen to the bible readings in church, but I am now reading the bible a lot more because of you blog. Keep up the good work!