This is Us: 39 lashes
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Acts 1:8
Growing up in East Los Angeles during the latter 1950’s and early 1960’s left its mark on me. All around me culture and society were changing. These upheavals were cataclysmic and are continuing to shape us. But as an elementary school aged boy I was oblivious to it all. School, friends, family and TV enveloped me in a cocoon. I thought this was normal and everyone lived the same way. But with regularity, something would happen that would shake up my thinking and reshape how I viewed the world. For example, being an American of Japanese descent, my food spectrum was heavily influenced by these ethnic ties so the first time I was invited to a neighbor’s home for Taco Night was quite an enlightening experience. From a young age my parents taught me to gratefully eat whatever was given to me, especially if it was from someone outside my family like our neighbors. In Japanese, the phonetically similarly sounding word to Taco is the word for octopus, takko. Even though octopus is a prized delicacy in many cultures, to a 7 year old boy, it is the kiss of death and in my mind we were going to the neighbor’s to eat an abomination. To my great surprise and joy I had a paradigm shift that night. Tacos are God’s and my Mexican American friends’ gift to mankind!
Another item in my boyhood was hearing my elementary school teachers say “39 lashes with a wet noodle.” What was this all about? What’s with the 39? Why not 25 or a dozen? And why a wet noodle? It took coming to faith in Jesus Christ years later that I understood 39 lashes and it wasn’t with a wet noodle. Pastor Ed graphically described this technique of torture and punishment using a “cat of nine tails.” The whipping was administered with 39 lashes as 40 would result in death. What is clear today is part of the price of bringing the Good News to the remotest parts of the Earth, traveled the path of 39 lashes. Jesus went this route before crucifixion. The Apostles were subjected to this torture with Paul stating 5 times he experienced the 39 lashes. Countless other saints endured so we could have the Good News today.
As Christ-followers we are engaged in the transformation of people by delivering the Good News. I have come to understand that we are all created differently by God and we each resonate with God’s Holy Spirit uniquely. How we hear and receive the Good News is often filtered through many layers of cultural, relational, familial and emotional life experiences. Therefore, I believe it is of utmost importance that we share the Good News in a style and manner most impactful with the intended recipient. And I further believe for most of us, the most impactful style is one to one, in a relationship of substance.
What is a relationship of substance? Significant markers of an ROS include selfless listening, sincere and personal dialogue, discovering and embracing commonly held touch points (emotions, desires, goals, experiences, etc.) connected with a willingness to be vulnerable and caring. An ROS can take place almost anywhere -- your workplace, school, soccer field, the gym and even church. It may happen very quickly or it may take seasons of cultivation and persistence. When this happens you can carry out Acts 1:8 -- you will receive power from the Holy Spirit and you will be Jesus’ witness.
The question that confronts us is will we do this? I hope we never have to endure 39 lashes to bring the Good News. But perhaps remembering what others went through will motivate us and move us to honor those, especially Jesus Christ who did. Enter into relationships of substance so you can be witnesses of the Good News. Starting may be as simple as holding a Taco Night.