Have you ever had a good day go bad? Elon Musk can empathize. Musk, the entrepreneur behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX, celebrated his 44th birthday last June. I imagine the day started off great. (Who doesn’t like birthdays?) Yet that morning one of his SpaceX rockets, destined for the International Space Station, exploded after launch. A good day went bad in a matter of seconds.
Paul and Barnabas had one of those days, too. Upon arriving in the far-away town of Lystra, the men miraculously healed a crippled man — and the residents loved them for it. They thought the traveling evangelists were Zeus and Hermes in the flesh, and they were ready to perform sacrifices (Acts 14:8-13).
About that time, an angry mob from nearby cities rolled into Lystra. They knew about Paul and Barnabas’ message, and they didn’t like it. They turned the crowds against the duo. Thus the same residents who had loved them moments earlier now hated them. They stoned Paul and left him for dead (Acts 14:19).
Talk about a good day gone bad. One minute you’re treated like a god, the next you’re running for your life. By comparison, Elon Musk’s day seems like a cakewalk.
We must respond to both love and hate by pointing people to Jesus.
Notice that Paul and Barnabas responded to remarkably different situations in remarkably similar ways. For example, when the crowds loved them, they didn’t soak the praise up or let it go to their head. They pushed back! They told their listeners that they weren’t actually all that good:
We also are men, of like nature with you (Acts 14:15)
They then redirected the crowds’ attention to a God who was that good:
you should turn from these vain things to a living God (Acts 14:15)
Later when the crowds hated them, nearly stoning Paul to death, they didn’t run home, fight back or hate their enemies. They returned to the city to repeat the same gospel message.
But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city (Acts 14:20)
Did you catch that? When people loved them for their faith, they pointed them to Jesus. And when people hated them for their faith, they pointed them to Jesus.
Different situations, same response.
Why does this matter? Because people both love and hate us for our faith every day.
Sometimes people love you for your faith. You may not miraculously heal anyone or be worshiped as a god, but you may receive praise for assisting a neighbor, performing your job with character, serving in your community, remaining faithful to your spouse or other uncommon acts of character. In other words, God will do something good through you, and you will receive the credit.
And it’s so tempting to soak the praise up. To pat yourself on the back. To think, “They’re right. I am pretty awesome.”
At other times, people hate you for your faith. And increasingly so. You may not be stoned by an angry mob. But people may ridicule you for your convictions about marriage. Chastise you for defending religious liberty. Or criticize you for failing to bow to the gods of unbridled sexuality and materialism.
And it’s so tempting to respond with anger, hatred or fear.
We have a rock-solid hope that doesn’t change according to our situation or others’ fickle opinions.
But, as Paul and Barnabas model for us, we must respond to both love and hate by pointing people to Jesus. When people love us, we tell them about the One who has inspired us to live differently. When people hate us, we hold strong to our convictions — and love them through gospel anyway.
Both responses wound our pride. They’re countercultural. Perhaps even strange. But when we respond to love and hate by pointing people to Jesus, we tell the world — and we remind ourselves — that we have a rock-solid hope that doesn’t change according to our situation or others’ fickle opinions. We live out the gospel.