All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Acts 9:21
To describe it as a party would be overgenerous. It was not a party. My family and I rung in the New Year alongside two other couples and their kids. We ate pizza, played games and told parenting jokes. It was simple, mostly quiet, and no one had to call AAA for a ride home. Several years ago I would have chalked this up as a disappointment and texted someone about my lame night. Instead my wife and I laughed about the good time we had.
In my late teens and early twenties I was in a rush for the New Year’s Eve service at church to be over. I had better things to do. It didn’t even matter that I had been a program participant that night, I wanted to party. I was feeling the dramatic pull that most Christian teens and young adults face. I wanted the best of both worlds. I loved the euphoria of the worship experience, as much I was passionate about the nightlife scene.
At the time I tried to join others who justified their actions with comments like, “Jesus hung out at parties.” While scripture does make some allusions to Jesus hanging out with questionable characters, I can’t picture Christ doing things that we like to do to have a good time. I don’t think He had to live in fear of potential incriminating Facebook posts.
Truthfully I’m not exactly sure when things started to change. I don’t remember a formula or spiritual discipline routine. I do remember asking God for help and apparently He was working on me even when I had forgotten about my request. When my desires for hanging out started to wane I didn’t force myself to party. I didn’t hold myself to the unwritten commandment of Thou must do something on Saturday night.
When I read parts of Paul’s story in the book of Acts I get it. After his conversation with Jesus, Paul’s life was changed. Those who knew him before were a bit shocked to say the least. They couldn’t trust that He was different. It might have been easier for Paul to go back to his old ways. After all if no one else believed that he could live right then why should he? Yet Paul desired to uphold his commitment to Christ even when others didn’t take him seriously. Paul’s life is a reminder of what can happen when we trust God and move forward instead of waiting for others to validate the change that He has already started to work in us.