Saturday, September 20, 2014

No Other Name

My small group is reading through the book of Acts, and I was particularly struck by an incident in chapter 4. It is seriously making me rethink my prayer life, especially considering how I have been praying for the persecuted Christians in the world.

The chapter begins with Peter and John being thrown into prison for proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead. The most troublesome part of their message is the part that still incites anger today. Without compromise or apology, Peter says:
 "...there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
No other name.

For me, those words ring true in the very depth of my being, as the Spirit who lives in me testifies to the undeniable truth that only Jesus saves. I bear witness with Peter and John, not because my eyes have seen the risen Christ, but because my life has been changed by him. His redemption continues to work its way through me, bringing humility where pride once reigned, spreading mercy where brokeness once stung, nurturing compassion where hard-heartedness once resisted, shining hope where despair once lurked. No other name. I'm convinced.

But I can see how those same words sound like a battle cry to a world that has not known his peace. Such an exclusive claim is heard as a rejection rather than an invitation. And those who do not believe that apart from Jesus there is no other way, would clearly take offense at the audacity of such words. No other name.

We don't speak these words to taunt the world, we plead them as poor beggars who have found the bread of life. It's him! He's the one! And every other name will leave you hungry and unsatisfied. Please, taste and see! There's just no other name.

So Peter and John hold to their claim, repeating their offense before their very accusers, insisting that they can not help speaking about what Jesus has done. They will not be silenced, and not because they want to incite violence--no! Because they want to share the peace that Jesus brings between God and men. In fact, to be silent about the name of Jesus is to subject others to the worst violence ever. For the wrath of God, his holy, righteous anger, was unleashed on the cross. And Jesus, only Jesus, could endure it. No other name.

Peter and John are released. Because even their worst critics couldn't find them guilty of any crime.

They return to their friends, and begin to pray:
And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
This is not what I would have prayed.

My first thought, my first-world, post-modern, prayer would have begun with a plea for protection! But they never ask God to protect them! They ask God to take note of the threats--and not to protect them as a result, but to increase their boldness and mulitply the evidence of his power!

And God answered immediately.

I have been praying for God to protect Christians from their persecutors. But I think that's the wrong prayer. Maybe I should be praying for God to enbolden his people--to bring them bravely out of their hiding places and to then manifest his power through them in amazing ways. So that the world will know that there is no other name.

Ah, but if I prayed that for them, would I be brave enough to pray it for myself?

Because even though my life isn't at stake, I have my own ways of hiding. I do, so often, seek my own emotional comfort and relational protection. I believe "no other name!" and I fail to proclaim it faithfully.

Lord, I want to speak your word with all confidence, while you extend your hand to do miracles in the name of Jesus, so that many might come to know your name. The name. Because there is no other name.

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