Links Daily Devotional

God and Men

But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19, NIV)

In case you missed it, a spat arose two weeks ago between actor Samuel L. Jackson and reality TV host/investor/politician Donald Trump. The real bone of contention seemed to stem from an interview Jackson recently did, in which he was asked, because he had noted that the two had played a round together, whether he was a better golfer than Trump. Jackson said, “I am, for sure. I don’t cheat.”

We are not God, but if we have relationship with him, we can appeal to him in his fixed glory and let him deliver all the courage we need.Them’s fightin’ words, as they say, but here’s what makes the whole matter somewhat less interesting for serious golfers: Nearly every golfer cheats. I don’t mean that accusingly, but simply to say that so few golfers really know the rulebook and it is ignorance that leads to the breaking of all kinds of rules. So does the casual play of most golfers. Few putt everything out—cheating! Many waive the rules among themselves by bumping the ball whenever agreed upon—cheating! Plenty will pick up a ball from ground under repair and simply toss it somewhere playable, employing no recognized method of a legal drop—cheating!

In truth, few of us would say that a golfer who engages in these actions is “a cheater.” They take these liberties openly, and most of them aren’t playing for keeps anyway. But those who are sticklers bristle every time any rule is broken. So who really is a cheater?

The question of rule-following was at the forefront when Peter and John crossed religious swords with the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jewish people. The apostles had been preaching openly about salvation being “found in no one else” than Jesus. The Sanhedrin couldn’t tolerate this and said among themselves, “We must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” They commanded the two to desist.

It was at this point that Peter and John raised the question of whom should be followed, men or God?

Now we may find similar opportunity in our own time, for in an increasing number of places, the law of the land is rising up against the righteousness of God. But it’s hard to take up the argument in a meaningful way if the only tool in our bag is to call the other side “cheaters” (read heathens or sinners). Thankfully, today’s passage gives us valuable insight into addressing those whose standard confronts our own in Christ.

First, we do well to put the onus on the other side: “Judge for yourselves…” Second, we appeal to God’s position rather than our own: “…whether it is right in God’s sight…” Third, if we dare to say “…to obey you rather than God,” we must be sure that we are obeying God and not just our political or personal bent. How well do we know the rulebook (that is, Scripture) ourselves?

We live in an ever-challenging world. Still, it can be navigated with shrewdness and tact. We are not God, but if we have relationship with him, as Peter and John did, we can appeal to him in his fixed glory and let him deliver all the courage we need.

Jeff Hopper
January 18, 2016
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