Saturday, April 6, 2013


The big news story of the week around here centers on the Rutgers University men’s basketball
coach being shown on videotape verbally and physically “abusing” his players during practice. We all know that in such circumstances the first thing that Rutgers must do is engage in “damage control,” trying to minimize the effect of the negative publicity in any way possible. Fairly or not, “damage control” seems to imply covering up the ugly truth -- the idea of dealing in a straightforward manner with the issue seldom seems to occur to anyone in power.
One passage from the Acts of the Apostles that we read this week sounded a familiar note – we see the people in power engaging in “damage control.” Peter and John were arrested and brought before a council of priests, scribes and elders, accused of the crime of preaching the gospel of Christ and curing a crippled man. The apostles were both eloquent and courageous in speaking in their own defense. Watch the reaction of the council members in the following passage.
 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, ‘What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.’ So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. (Acts 4:13-21)
The leaders are upset because the apostles are proclaiming “in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” But they have a problem: By their own admission “it is obvious” that something
miraculous has happened it. They cannot deny that resurrection power is at work through the apostles -- the man who has been cured is standing there in front of them. They admit that the whole city knows about it. Yet when they ask “what power or name” had healed him, they don’t believe Peter when he says that it was the power of the resurrected Jesus.


So the apostles take the high road and say that they must obey God rather than man, and that they “cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” In contrast to the apostles' burning simplicity, however, the leaders deny what they themselves have seen (the healing of the crippled man) and heard (that the power of the risen Lord is at work here.). They are not interested in truth – in fact they seem afraid of it.
Instead they resort to political maneuvering: Since they cannot deny the reality of the healing, they engage in “damage control” to limit the spread of the true story (because the truth would cause them to lose all sorts of power and prestige and position). They put a gag order on the apostles, and try to keep the story from spreading among the people. Interestingly, in our day the healing would have been on You Tube for all the world to see, and the history of Christianity would probably have unfolded much differently.

I find that unfortunately I’m not much different from those leaders: I see and indeed celebrate the mystery of the resurrection, but then when its implications start to threaten my convenience or impinge on my entrenched way of living, I look for ways around the inconvenient truth. I fudge and rationalize -- I engage in damage control.
May the risen Lord give you and me the courage that he gave Peter and John so that we may follow Him as faithfully and fearlessly as they did, and like them preach by our lives “what we have seen and heard.”

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