by Andrew Hillard
Already arrested and on his way into the barracks where he would be held, Paul had a request. He wanted to speak to the people before he was taken away, and given the opportunity to speak, he began, “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you” (Acts 22:1). When he had everyone’s attention, he began to share his story, but his tone was anything but defensive. He boldly shared his personal testimony. He talked about his zeal for the Hebrew law that led him to persecute Christians with imprisonment and even death. He shared openly about his past and honestly about his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Then, he told the people about the mission to which Jesus called him, first through Ananias and then through a vision of Jesus in the temple, a mission that had shaped every day of his life since that time, especially this moment.
Being taken into custody, Paul reminds us of the beautiful simplicity of our calling as witnesses for Jesus. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we too can share openly about our past, what our lives were like before we knew Jesus, and we can share honestly about how Jesus has worked in our lives. We can share about the calling Jesus has placed on our lives and how we’ve seen him work in and through our lives. Paul’s story also reminds us that everybody won’t be happy to hear our story, but in the trials we face, may we remember the words Jesus stood by him and said in the dark night of the barracks, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (Acts 23:11). We might not testify in Jerusalem or Rome, but in the Spirit’s power, let’s take courage and testify today, tomorrow, and every day the Lord gives us breath.