Jail isn’t a nice place to spend a couple of nights away from home. But in this certain place in Africa it was particularly tough for a Church leader this week accused of forgery and fraud. I know him and a few of us were able to help get him released. Someone who had walked with him on his team with an axe to grind had brought false allegations and though it seems crazy to our Western justice system he was locked up.
In this sobering account of the commissioning of the disciples into mission, Jesus is taking them beyond their short trip into the villages near them to the years ahead in order to give them instructions of what to do and how to be when it gets really tough for them. What Jesus says definitely helps anyone today who finds them in a situation like my African friend.
“Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10 v 17-20)
Are people speaking about you behind your back? Are they chewing you over? Casting doubt on your motives? Are they scrutinising your words? Are they questioning your credibility? Is your name being tarnished? All Pastors know these experiences. It comes with the role. It will happen. But it will also happen to every Christian whether a Church leader or not who is living out their faith in a mission setting to the world around them. Jesus says it can start in familiar places, in the places of worship before people of faith and it can end up even before the highest courts in the land.
If your greatest desire in these situations is to defend yourself then you have missed what Jesus is saying. If you want to be free and who doesn’t after being flogged in public then you haven’t heard the instructions properly. NO.
You have been taken into that situation to be a witness not only to those who are accusing you but to those watching. It is an opportunity to be a different man and woman in that arena. A moment to hold your head up high and know that you are a follower of Jesus and whatever happens you will not abandon your position.
So what are the instructions?
- Do not worry about what is ahead of you in trying to determine the best defence.
- Wait and receive wisdom at the time you need it.
- Speak with assurance that the Holy Spirit of Father God, the highest authority, is the one speaking.
Three instructions that were applicable for my friend this week in the African jail. Three instructions for everyone who may wake knowing they face a day of scrutiny.