In today's reading, Paul is telling the Jewish crowd the story of how Jesus called and changed him. The crowd was angered to riot level to hear that Jesus wanted Paul to carry the Good News to the Gentiles.
After being taken prisoner and bound by the Roman soldiers, Paul informs them that he is a Roman citizen. The Roman captain tells Paul he had to pay a great price to be freed from slavery and have the benefits of Roman citizenship. Paul states that he was born a Roman citizen. When the Romans find out that Paul is a Roman citizen by birth, their attitude toward him and their treatment of him drastically changes.
As I was reading this, it struck me that citizenship can have many privileges and protections associated with it. In this story, Roman citizenship meant belonging to a powerful society and having protections and rights not bestowed upon “outsiders”. Citizens were free and not someone else’s property. We experience these privileges and benefits today in our lives as American citizens.
On a much greater scale, as followers of Jesus, we enjoy the benefits of belonging to Him. Through Christ, we belong to His family and have the extravagant gift of grace. We also enjoy His love and protection. Unlike Roman citizenship, God’s gifts don’t have to be purchased and we don’t have to qualify by being a certain race or gender. There is no way we can earn or deserve God’s love and forgiveness. But we do have to make a conscious decision to follow Jesus and accept Him as our Lord. Like Paul, we have to answer Jesus’ call and allow Him to change us. In a way, it’s very simple and it’s available to everyone. But sometimes it’s not so easy to say yes.
Lord, Help us to hear your call and say yes to your gifts and the changes you will make in us. Amen.