In today’s reading from Acts, the Apostle Paul heals a crippled man. In response, the Greek audience believes that Paul and the Apostle Barnabas are incarnations of the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes, and attempt to worship them as gods. In response, the apostles rebuke them harshly.
The Apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments
when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting,
“Men, why are you doing this?
We are of the same nature as you, human beings.
We proclaim to you good news
that you should turn from these idols to the living God,
who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.
In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways;
yet, in bestowing his goodness,
he did not leave himself without witness,
for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons,
and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.”
Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds
from offering sacrifice to them.
How does this story have relevance to us today? Well, it warns us that we cannot allow ourselves to be seduced into considering a spiritual leader to be anything other than a messenger of the good news in the person of Jesus Christ. This is true even if the spiritual leader does nothing to encourage others to consider her or him to be anything other than a fellow seeker. It is our individual responsibility to recognize that only Jesus, his Father and the Holy Spirit are worthy of our reverence.
This doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with learning from those who are at a more advanced stage of their faith journey. To the contrary, growth encounters with mature followers of Jesus are among the most fruitful experiences that a Christian can have. What is important is that we recognize that the goal is closer communion with the Lord, not the exaltation of another person as one who is “more loved” by God. We are all equally loved by God!