But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs. Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.” At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him. After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favour, Felix left Paul in prison.
Hmmm! Governor Felix is in a quandary! In his gut he knows that there’s nothing in these charges against Paul. But politics rears its ugly head! And personal guilt. And marital relations. And bribery (or the hope of it). There’s everything here!
How did the author of Acts get all this inside information? Is this the author’s imagination at work? Once again, we can only guess.
What we do know, in our own day, as in every age, is that politics, guilt, personal interest all influence even the wisest of people, and when people have power, those influences can affect the lives of many.
I remember the owner of an engineering business being personally upset that he had to make some of his workers redundant. When I took the ‘side’ of the workers, he said that if he kept them on, the business would not survive, and everyone would be redundant. Was he honest about the effect of his own personal stake in the business?
We cannot help such factors influencing us, but we need to practise being aware of them so that we can be as fair as possible.
God, you have no ‘motive’ except creative love. Help us, when our motives become tangled, to find your Way of Love. Amen
The Rev’d Peter Rand is a retired minister and member of Trinity Church, Bedlington.