Our passage today is Acts 16:11-15.
The notes today have been written by Mark Miller
“Take me to the river……..”
We are currently following Paul in the 2nd of his missionary journeys and see Paul’s plans in a state of flux. For some reason God had barred their way into the area of Bithynia and now, due to a vision telling him to head to Macedonia, we join Paul in Phillipi. Contrast Paul’s obedience and Jonah when The Lord instructed Jonah to go to Ninevah but Jonah was disobedient and headed in the complete opposite direction. Paul however was obedient to Gods leading and headed in the completely opposite direction to what he had planned. These must have been interesting days for Paul as he was awaiting the fulfilment of the vision he had seen only a few days earlier.
I read an article recently on how businesses have to learn to deal with cultural differences. Companies often merge with other companies overseas or have offices located in different countries. Tact is then needed when dealing with colleagues from the same company but from another culture. When conducting a meeting in the Middle East for example, a small detail such as shaking hands at the beginning of a meeting will depend on what sex you are. Board meetings in the West tend to thrash things out until an agreement is reached whereas in Japan, people are less confrontational and decisions are reached far later. Consultancies are now helping multinational businesses address these differences by using four R’s: respect, recognition, reconciliation and realisation. Following these steps is seen as the way to make for healthy business relationships.
Paul, Silas & Timothy were in a foreign land experiencing a different culture and customs.
See how hundreds of years before any consultancy started their training, Lydia, a business woman, was using the ‘four R’s’ to understand these men. She put aside her cultural differences/opinions to take time to listen to Paul (v14). Lydia and also the Apostles show a mutual respect for each other. The Apostles do so by meeting the ladies where they were and sitting down with them. (V13 ‘We sat down and began to speak’)
We should learn from these Apostles how best to communicate the Gospel. We need to go to where unsaved people are whilst still remembering who we are. Paul’s aim was to find a place to pray but his willingness to go to different places enabled him to engage in different conversations about the Lord.
Lydia was a seller of purple. This means she mixed in the high class of society as only the wealthy would be able to afford purple. (The soldiers put a purple robe on the Lord when mocking him) As a seller of expensive fabrics she had to be switched on business wise and would have pondered outcomes and not made decisions rashly. She had an open ear towards the gospel and the Lord allowed the rest of the four ‘R’s’ to take effect.
Lydia came to a realisation of her position before God. She then made the decision to believe in him resulting in the reconciliation of herself to the Lord
Despite cultural differences, Lydia must have respected Paul and his delivery of the Gospel as she was willing to give of her time to listen to him
As Christians we need to build relationships with people and invest time, energy and effort into meeting them where they are.
How easy it would be for someone to switch off from listening to us if they didn’t respect us in the first place! Let’s be aware of the fact that we need to earn peoples’ respect and trust before we exercise our calling to share with them the Gospel. Let’s always be respectful in our style of delivery and mindful of how we are perceived when witnessing to others.