I am intensely afraid of heights. Like, paralyzed-on-a-second-story-roof afraid. I once was helping a friend put Christmas lights on her house, and though I was petrified to climb a ladder and get onto the roof, I put that fear aside in order to help her out. Unfortunately, once I got on the roof, I was toast. My brain said, “Just climb back down to the ladder. You won’t fall or break anything—it’s perfectly safe.” But my body wouldn’t respond to logic. My legs were like Jell-O. I was stuck.
I took a risk for a friend—which was the right thing to do—but I suffered embarrassment and stress in the process. And I vowed to never feel like that again. If I were on a courtroom TV show, I would’ve definitely sued that roof for causing me mental anguish.
In today’s passage, we see Paul taking a risk for not only his friends, but ultimately his Lord. That might be the last time I ever climb on a roof, but this is not the first or last time Paul put himself in harm’s way for the sake of Christ.
In this scene, he is at the temple teaching something he knew the crowd would likely reject. But this crowd wasn’t merely unbelieving pagans who didn’t know him; these people were Jews—God’s people, Paul’s people. This crowd was predisposed to despise Paul because, though he was one of them, his gospel was an affront to their beliefs. Knowing that, he and his companions still entered the temple and preached the gospel.
So why did Paul enter the temple knowing the danger? The obvious answer is that he knew the Great Commission. Sure. But more than that, he did it out of love.
Remember what he says to the Romans: “I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood” (Romans 9:2-3). Paul wanted those closest to him to know Christ and be saved, so much so that he was willing to trade his own eternal fate for theirs. He was willing to be embarrassed—and much worse if that’s what it took.
This passage speaks not simply to door-to-door evangelism or handing out pamphlets at the mall; it speaks to sharing Christ with those closest to us. After all, why would we spend hours and hours trying to tell strangers about Jesus when our own family, friends, coworkers, and classmates don’t know him?
My risk was not Paul’s risk. But we both suffered at some level because love compelled us to take a risk for someone else. The difference between Paul and me is that he was more willing to be beaten for the gospel than I am to climb on another roof. He risked over and over again, and I’ve not stepped foot on a roof since.
For many of us, our instinct is to avoid risk, even when the risk in question is motivated by love. We can look up that ladder and talk ourselves into believing it’s not worth the personal pain or hassle. But in the gospel, the real risk is not loving others.
The question for us is, which do we see as a greater risk—self-preservation or gospel-motivated love?
Written By Brandon D. Smith