Philip (of the 7) and the (3) Little Pigs

I wrote a story based (sort of) on the Three Little Pigs. The story is Reflection, Restoration, Redemption and Three Little Pigs

However, I think I want to change the story a bit. I think that first little pig representing Reflection is wrong. Rather, it should be Resignation.

The responses to a bad situation (choosing three from among many) are:

  1. Resignation. Accepting the situation without doing anything about it.
  2. Restoration. Fixing or undoing the situation.
  3. Redemption. Making good out a bad situation.

The difference between restoration and redemption the assumed endpoint. In Restoration, the goal is to return to status quo. Classically, in a sitcom, the goal is to bring up a (sometimes ridiculous problem) and end the episode with a return to normal. This is useful because it makes it easier for the writers. They start from the same place each time. Of course, this can be unsatisfying. It is nice to have characters learn and grow. It is nice to have story arcs that are more than 22 minutes long. With redemption, the bad stuff is used for good. Ideally, the end would not have been as good if it were not for the bad. This theme is not unusual in the Bible. The Joseph arc in Genesis starts with jealousy, family conflict and enslavement, and ends with family restoration and salvation. The viciousness of humanity in the Passion story is used as an opportunity to demonstrate God’s sacrificial love, and message of salvation.

A great example of this sort of redemption is found in Acts 8 with Philip of the Seven (or the Evangelist). The church has been growing in Jerusalem but appears not to be spreading much outside of the city. Conflicts with the religious establishment leads to great persecution. Followers of the Way begin to escape from Jerusalem. Curiously, it is noted that among those that did not leave were the Twelve— the ones who were specifically called by God to leave Jerusalem. (See Acts 1:8).

Those that left began to share the gospel message to their fellow Jews in Judea. The persecution in Jerusalem was like a blowing on a fire to put it out, but instead of putting it out, it causes the flame to spread faster. Among those who left was Philip. Philip did something different. He did not go to the towns of Judea. He went to Samaria. There was not a lot of warm feelings between the Jews and the Samaritans. It is quite possible that Philip was not only one “of the 7” of Acts 6, he may have also been one “of the 70” from Luke 10. While the Twelve were sent to the Jews, the 70 (or 72) had no such constraints placed upon them. And Philip was probably a Hellenistic Jew (based on the Greek name and his call to minister to Hellenistic Jewish widows in the church. If so, he would be bicultural and perhaps more open to minister to a group that was arguably rather bicultural (or syncretistic). Reaching out to a Jewish proselyte (assuming the Ethiopian Eunuch was a proselyte) would be quite consistent with his adventurous spirit in sharing the faith across cultural divides.

You can read starting in Acts 8 in his role not only of bringing the Christian faith to Samaritans, but also getting some of the apostles to leave Jerusalem and begin to share their faith beyond. Then you can read about his ministry of bringing the Ethiopian Eunuch to Christ. The Ethiopian church sees this man as its founder. Is that true? It is hard to say, but he certainly inspired the Ethiopian church— one of the most enduring vibrant ancient Christian groups. Then one can read about his work in Judea, and eventually settling in Cesarea and ministering there with his family.

One can focus on Philip. Why not? It certainly makes sense to look at it biographically. But this story can be seen in terms of redemptive responses to problems.

  1. In Acts 6, there is conflict in the church over racism. The response was to give a ministerial role and authority to seven Hellenistic Jews (including Stephen and Philip). The story shows this to be more than simply restoration. Acts doesn’t simply show things as “fixed.” Out of this situation, Stephen is described as a courageous preacher, and first martyr. And Philip is described as the cross-cultural missionary of the church.
  2. The persecution of the church… leads to the Gospel spreading in all directions, including crossing cultural boundaries.

There is a lot of redemption. In grief response, one of the responses is that of the Activist. This person is inspired to turn tragedy into something positive. This is not the only positive response, but it can be valuable when this happens.

Of course, I have talked of redeeming and restoring, but what about resignation. Resigning oneself doesn’t always mean enduring with a sigh. Ultimately, resignation is to not fix and not redeem. It does concern me that I see so many on FB and Twitter (especially before I started to back out of those platforms) who would share stories like this:

—Here is a story… you should be fearful about it.

—You are fearful? Well now here is a story for you to be angry about.

—Angry now? It’s time to hear a new story so that you can be fearful.

—Fearful? Now here is something to be angry about….

And so on… more and more. I never really figured out the reason why people share these things. Ideally, they can inspire fervent prayer, and action to to restore what is good… or redeem the problem for good. More often it is just to cycle people through useless or even destructive emotional cycles.

I think we can do better. Philip did…

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