“And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” (Acts 9:29–31, AV)
The last church in which I pastored was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I served there for ten-years and became interested in New England Patriots football. Most everyone knows of their quarterback, Tom Brady. He is considered by many as the greatest of all time. Well, knowing the people of New England, you might understand their consternation when Brady did not re-sign with New England and ended up going to Tampa Bay.
Two things happened when Brady switched teams. First, this aroused much passion in the New England fans and the sportscasters provoked the angst in their broadcasts. People were angry at the New England coach, because they blamed him from not keeping Tom Brady. Others were angry with Tom because he switched teams.
Second, Tom went to a new city and in time, things settled down. Peace returned to New England when the fans and sportscasters decided to just get on with the fact that their beloved quarterback was gone.
When a person changes allegiances it will provoke a response, especially when it is one of great promise. Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was one such person. He was the rising star of Pharisees, being well educated in Pharisaic teachings and a persecutor of the church. However, this all changed when he came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. In the eyes of the Jewish religious leaders, upon hearing rumors that Saul had changed sides, so to speak, they may have thought that these were just idle rumors. However, when Saul began preaching Jesus and disputing with the “Grecians,” Greek speaking Jews, there was no doubt. Saul of Tarsus had converted to the other side.
His ability to dispute against the “Grecians” was so powerful, that they saw no other option than to kill him. Yet, when the other believers in Jerusalem heard about this, they ushered him quickly out of Judea and back to Tarsus. The Scripture indicates that after Saul departed, there was relative peace throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria. Things settled down.
There are probably some of you who can relate to this. When you believed, your life changed so dramatically that your old friends and acquaintances did not know what to do. In some cases, they may have responded with hostility. They may have shunned you from their lives. They may have tried to trip you up so that you would stumble in sin. When a group loses one of their own to the other side, it will often provoke a response, especially if the transformation in one’s life is very drastic.
The good news with this is that God brings us into a much better fellowship. It is one with Him directly and through this, we have fellowship with other believers. When we enter this fellowship with God and other believers, we will experience a peace like none other. It will be one that transcends all human understanding (Phil 4:6-7). If you are worried about losing your friendship with the old and because of your faith, don’t. You might not lose them. On the other hand, God may use your radical transformation to save them. Even if you do lose those old friends, you have a much more blessed fellowship in the body of Christ.