Monday, September 29, 2008

Standing Before Nero

After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: "You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!" Acts 25:12

What if you were given the opportunity to stand before the most powerful man in the world? What if you had to stand before him as a prisoner to plead your case? Although we don't know if Paul ever stood before the Emperor of the Roman empire, we know that he certainly could have. We also know that whatever he may have said to him fell on deaf ears, as he was martyred later and Nero never came to know the Lord.

For those of you who don't know much about Nero, he was a wicked man. One of the most evil things he did was to have his mother cut in half so he could see the womb where he grew for nine months. He also severely persecuted Christians. Both Paul and Peter are believed to have died under the persecution that he authorized. So, in light of all that, what if you were given the opportunity to stand before this man?

Honestly, the answer doesn't really matter because 1) you can't change the past, and 2) he is dead. I guess this posting is kind of irrelevant because there is no practical application. Sorry. Or maybe I'm just asking the wrong question.

What if you were given the opportunity to stand before the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? For those of you who don't know, this man has repeatedly questioned the historical fact of the holocaust and has openly expressed his desire to wipe Israel off the face of the map. In addition, his ties to terror groups and open funding of Hamas sets him as a bad guy in the eyes of the west. And well he should be! His regime also brutally persecutes Christians and other groups in Iran.

Some faith-based organizations hosted a dinner to meet with this man to show how America is working just fine with religious tolerance. This dinner has been met with protest and outrage among various groups, and various Southern Baptist leaders have spoken out against the dinner. Although I understand their motives and outrage, I would gladly attend were I given a ticket (I wasn't and never would have, but in a hypothetical world, I'd be there). Why? Don't I stand against this man's policies? Don't I recognize his wickedness? Absolutely! But there are motivations for going just like there are motivations for protesting.

For one, the food at that dinner will probably cost more per plate than my wife and I spend on our weekly groceries. Second, and more importantly, how many people have a chance to speak with Ahmadinejad about their faith? If I had the choice of shouting from the streets about how evil this man is or sit across the dinner table with him and tell him about Christ, I'd take the dinner every time. Face it. A sinner is a sinner, and this guy needs to know Christ just as much as the mailman. Both are equally condemned by the law, so what does it matter if I eat with him or some other person? I don't want to legitimize his actions, but does he have to clean up his act before we lovingly take the gospel to him?

But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. Acts 9:15

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