My faith is my faith. Your faith is your faith. The world says things like, "Don't shove your faith down my throat." And when the world rejects our evangelism, we say things like, "Fine. If you want to go to Hell, don't say I didn't warn you."
We live in an individualized culture, and so it is no surprise that we have individualized our faith. We preach sermons and listen to messages that tell us that Jesus died just for us, that if we were the only person in the whole world, He still would have died just for us. That Jesus came to be with us, individually. That we each have to make our own decision about what we believe and how we want to live and who/what we want to worship.
We have even changed the way that we read the Bible. Ask anyone to name a significant character from the Bible, and you're going to get names - David, Samuel, Jesus, Paul, Peter. No one ever says, "The Israelites." No one ever says, "The church at Antioch." No one ever says, "The believers in Jerusalem."
Yet, God keeps telling stories about peoples. Not persons, although some of them are named, but even in the stories where we have one guy or gal with a name, God is talking about a people. He's talking about the good of the nation. He's talking about cities and towns and regions and populations and whole groups all together.
As strange as this sounds to us, like maybe it's some kind of hero worship or something where these named individuals are somehow mini-gods or mini-saviors or whatever, this was not at all strange to the people of God who were alive at the time these things were written. They knew their faith was not just about them.
Ours isn't, either.
Our faith has ripple effects through this world - through our houses, our neighborhoods, our communities. Everyone around us is touched by what we believe and how sincerely we live it out. At least, they're supposed to be. That's how it's supposed to work.
Your faith isn't supposed to just make your life better. Your faith isn't supposed to just set your heart right. Your faith isn't meant to just open your eyes. Remember the friends who brought the paralytic on his mat to Jesus? It was their faith, Jesus says, that made their friend walk again.
And that's not even the story I want to talk about this week.
This week, I want to look at another story, one that we know but don't think about a whole lot. One that has so much to teach us if we just take the time to read it slowly and really take in what's happening. (So much is happening.)
That story is a story about two men of God - Paul and Silas - in a prison cell.