police tapeYesterday’s murder of the controversial Dr. George Tiller, notorious for his prolofic abortion activity, will no doubt be written and spoken about much in the next few days.  The vigilante nature of the murderer’s  act is obviously immoral and unjustified.  It made me question, though: does the Paphos Paradigm shed any light on confronting evil in the political arena?  I believe it does because Paul and Barnabas came across an obstacle in the capital of Cyprus.  

6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.  8 But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.  9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, 10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?  11 Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.  (Acts 13:6-11)

Several principles can be observed from Acts 13 in relation to responding to those with opposing priorities.  First of all, I think we can agree that opposition will occur in this world and we shouldn’t be surprised or intimidated when it does.  Especially in the political sphere we tend to take great offense that others don’t share our point of view when this is one inescapable reality.

Second, notice why Paul was stirred to action: Bar-Jesus was placing himself between Paul and the governor to block the gospel from having any effect (v. 8).  Paul wasn’t passionate about policy differences as much as he was displeased that a wall had been placed in the way of his message.  His actions clearly reflect a priority of seeing his mission through – witnessing to Sergius Paulus.  He wouldn’t let anything get in the way of that, because he knew the powerful impact the gospel has in the human heart.

Third, motivated by the right reason, Paul has sharp words for Bar-Jesus and calls him exactly what he is: an enemy of what is right.  But again, let the passage define “right”.  Bar-Jesus opposed Paul’s gospel message while his political views aren’t even mentioned (or seem to concern Paul at all).  Passion for seeing the gospel reach a leader is the issue here, not to change his mind on a policy.  When the truth of God does its work, the Church must believe that worldviews are changed and spiritually regenerated leaders can then make laws that are more moral and equitable.

Fourth, think about what isn’t recorded in this passage.  Given Paul’s pattern of ministry and his priority of proclaiming God’s truth, I believe he witnessed to Bar-Jesus (or at least spoke within his hearing) before this recorded confrontation took place.  And who knows what the result was from the combination of Paul’s teaching and Bar-Jesus’ temporary blindness?  For Sergius Paulus, it was faith in Christ.  We aren’t told what happened ultimately in the magician’s heart and maybe the author, Luke, never found out.  But from the impression left by Paul’s response to his opposition, Bar-Jesus may have believed as well.

Murdering a political opponent is never right.  With prayer and proper confrontation from the Christian community, perhaps Dr. Tiller would have drawn close to Christ.  Our concern over the negative effects of the actions of those hostile to God’s principles in Scripture must be spiritual rather than merely political or opinion-based.  It’s important to speak up for righteousness in our world, but the battle is won and lost in the hearts of people as they respond to God’s truth.