In Acts 22, Paul is standing before the Roman Tribune. The Jews are furious with him for preaching the Gospel. How dare he of all people blasphemy against God by proclaiming Christ, after the life he’d lived, after he’d condemned Stephens death?
After Paul tells them the story of his encounter with Jesus in the desert, we pick up in verse 22:
Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
What Paul does here is so interesting to me, if only because it’s the one thing I find myself avoiding in my day-to-day: he vouches for his innocence by talking about his past, and it’s his past that saves him in that moment.
Paul was a changed man. He was no longer the man that people shrunk in the shadow of, afraid for their lives just because the name of Jesus was on their lips. He had walked away from that.
I wonder, when I read about the life of Paul, how often he struggled with shame. After all, doesn’t he call himself “the worst of all sinners”?
But he recalls where’s he’s been. He speaks up about the dark places he’s walked through and come from. He uses the life he has lived to help him in his present dilemma. And it works.
Oh, how often I bite my lip and swallow hard when uncomfortable questions get asked. Nothing in me wants to even mention what’s over my shoulder. And I wonder how many times it could have softened the hearts of the people listening, had I spoken up; I wonder how many times my past could have changed the moment I was standing in.
To me, brave looks like a lot of things.
Like knowing when to stop telling a story.
Or having the guts to tell honest stories about the roads you don’t walk down anymore.