Pentecost 25, Thursday, Year C

Inspired by Acts 22:22-23:11

“While Paul was looking intently at the council he said, ‘Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.’  Then the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth.  At this Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!  Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?’  Those standing nearby said, ‘Do you dare insult God’s high priest?’  And Paul said, ‘I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, “You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.”’”  Acts 23:1-5 (NRSV)

In all arenas of life—civic, religious, and familial—some are put in positions of authority over others.  The expectation is that those leaders will maintain and uphold the virtues and principles that are supposed to govern the activities of that sphere.  But when the leaders themselves fail to live according to those virtues and principles, a great deal of confusion, mistrust, and disillusionment can occur.

Paul probably knew perfectly well that Ananias was the high priest, but he used Ananias’ abuse of power to highlight the inappropriateness of his actions.  The council themselves referred to Ananias as “God’s high priest” and Paul cleverly pointed out that he knew God’s high priest, a leader of God’s people, would never violate the very law he was there to uphold.  Since Ananias had indeed violated that law, Paul hadn’t recognized him as high priest.  Ananias’ actions did not fit his position.

When we are in positions of authority, whether it’s in government, a social organization, or within our own families, we must follow the same rules and engage in the same behaviors that we expect from everyone else.  We have a great deal of influence over other people; we can use it to encourage justice, or to create mistrust.  Which would best serve the kingdom of God?

Let us pray.  Sovereign God, you give us the power to influence others.  Enable us to use that power wisely, that your principles of justice and mercy will guide all our actions and decisions.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.