‘Tis the season of politics, where candidates spout promises they can’t keep, and critics discredit their words, thoughts, and actions. One side speaks idealistically to their followers; the other side answers with generalizations or exaggerations to demean their opponent.
And every election year, I hear multiple people claim this is the ugliest, mud-slinging-est, nastiest political race ever.
But is it? After all, critics have been around for thousands of years.
Examples from the Old Testament
Think through the Old Testament stories you know. Do you really think no one criticized Noah as he built a giant boat in the desert? Or Abraham’s parents didn’t haven’t something unpleasant to say when he left all he knew for places unknown?
Maybe you remember the story of the prophet Elijah standing up to his detractors in a great battle involving sacrificed bulls and fire from heaven? Right after this, he’s so overwhelmed with critics that he hides in the desert crying out to God.
In fact, most of the prophets of old were unpopular because their messages from God weren’t all sunshine and roses. How many people do you think tried to take them down or lessen their influence in the community?
Examples from the New Testament
The Bible clearly portrays the Jewish leaders disdain of the message being spread by Jesus and His disciples. As the Good News caught fire and more people became Christians, hatred and persecution grew. Leaders disseminated exaggerations and outright lies to the masses.
And we’re not free of some of that propaganda today.
Think about this: What’s your perception of the disciples’ level of education? Nope, don’t read on. Take a moment to consider what you know, what you’ve heard, and what you’ve read. What comes to mind?
Perhaps a phrase from Acts 4:13: they were unschooled, ordinary men.
What does that mean? What did first century Jews think of when they heard that? And what do we infer from it today? Were they babbling baboons who dropped out of the third grade so they could earn money to help support their families? Were they slow of thinking, untrained in critical thought, and unfamiliar with complex mathematics?
A Bit of Truth, Despite the Critics Exaggerations
First, we should point out the verse in Acts chapter 4 refers only to Peter and John, not the disciples as a whole.
Second, don’t assume that the term unschooled equates to babbling baboon. Both Peter and John were business owners before following Jesus. They worked in the fishing industry, which means they understood tides and the habits of fish. On a daily basis, they dealt with concepts like cash flow, assets, paying taxes, and handling employees.
Third, the other men chosen by Jesus to be His twelve apostles had various levels of education. For example, Matthew collected taxes, which means he probably understood and likely spoke multiple languages common to his area. He also possessed accounting skills, was knowledgeable in acceptable practices for his day, calculated percentages well in his head, and possessed enough people skills to deal with the Roman officials.
And Jesus’s disciples included hundreds of men and women, also with varying levels of education. The Gospel writer Luke was a doctor. Joseph of Arimathaea was a member of the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus was a Pharisee.
Unschooled, Ordinary Men
The truth is that most of the disciples didn’t carry around degrees of higher education. They were, technically, unschooled. But that doesn’t mean they were ignorant or incapable.
They were also ordinary men who were busy about their lives before Jesus came to town. They had families and business responsibilities, friends and social events on their calendars.
Rather than demean or negate them, though, this should excite us.
God wants to involve us in Kingdom work no matter our education level, tax rate, social calendar, or experience. Unschooled, ordinary men were chosen to lead a revolution in the Jewish Temple that changed everything in their world.
Imagine what He wants to do through you.
This weekend, I’ll be leading a conference on Love straight out of 1 John chapter 4. I appreciate all your prayers for both me and the ladies who will be listening.