Acts 24:8 – By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him. (NIV)
I don't know what I did that was so wrong, but the headmaster at my elementary school didn't like me. I must have been impertinent or had gotten into trouble for something. When a substitute teacher came to look after our class for a while, the headmaster came in with her. As he introduced her to all of the students, he asked four boys to stand up. I was one of them.
"Keep a close eye on these four," he said. "They are the troublemakers in this class. If they give you any problems, send them directly to me. I know these kind of boys. They will never make anything good of themselves."
I was totally embarrassed and didn't know what to say or do. For the next couple of weeks, the substitute teacher came down hard on the fearsome four. I never hated school so much in my life, and I nursed my anger against the headmaster for a long, long time.
Twenty years later, I was officiating at a funeral in my parish. The deceased's brother happened to be my old headmaster. He hadn't a clue who I was and I desperately wanted to tell him that he had been so wrong in condemning me all those years ago. But I didn't, because he had become an old, bitter man, who was alienated from the rest of his family. As soon as his brother's funeral was over, he left without saying a word. I felt sorry for him. My anger against him dissolved, and it turned into pity.
Paul was falsely accused by the religious leaders and Roman authorities of stirring up dissension and causing riots. He was unjustly imprisoned and held without trial for a long time. But even although things were stacked against him, Paul didn't allow the circumstances to diminish his faith. Instead, in all the years that he was a prisoner, he used that time to write some beautiful letters of faith and to spread the gospel throughout the Mediterranean. Those letters were cherished so much by the churches who received them that they have become an important part of our New Testament today.
Perhaps we are feeling bad because someone has upset us, or has said something about us that isn't true. Perhaps we feel angry or bitter about some injustice in our life. We would do well not let it rule over our hearts, minds, or souls. Years of anger only wear us down and make us bitter. Let's take it to Jesus in prayer, and then allow Him to transform our feelings into something more positive, more forgiving, more understanding. By doing this, we will grow in faith and become better Christians.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes we find it hard to deal with criticism, especially when it is unfounded and unjust. Strengthen our spirits so that we may endure such things, and not be overwrought, overwhelmed, or overcome by them. Bless those who unjustly criticize us, and help us to forgive them. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.
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