As I read Paul’s journal type account (from the book of Acts) of his epic Roman adventure, I like to read between the lines and add the “flavor” that is missing. I like to give my imagination the reins and envision what it was like to make the cloak and dagger escape with the cavalry in the middle of the night. I try to picture the conditions on the ship during the hurricane – the noise, the chaos, the fear. And I always attempt to get a feel for the personalities and interactions between the people.
It’s clear that Paul’s God given goal was getting to Rome to preach the gospel. But as I read the detailed description of the journey there were so many other supporting roles along the way. There were definitely a lot of places and faces involved in Paul’s story but I don’t get the feeling that he ever treated the people along the way as unnecessary to the script.
The relationship that caught my attention this week was between Paul and a guy named Julius. Not only was Julius a centurion – but he was a centurion with the Imperial Regiment. He was Paul’s “captor” – his prison guard. I’ve never gotten the impression that Roman centurions were particularly friendly towards the Jewish people. And yet we know from this historical record that Julius actually allowed Paul to go into town to hang out with his friends, get a shower, grab some Oreos and catch the Nascar race ( – Don’s version of Acts 27:3).
Further into the account the centurion is actually taking Paul’s advice about staying on the ship during the storm instead of bailing out – every man for themselves – in the lifeboats. And, when his own troops wanted to kill all the prisoners to keep them from swimming away, Julius kept them from carrying out their plan and devised a way for everyone to make it to shore safely. Somehow this doesn’t sound like the relationship between a prisoner and his guard to me. Somewhere along the way Paul must have taken the initiative to befriend his “captor”. It sounds like Paul was practicing what he preached no matter who he was talking to and no matter where he was at in his journey. Clearly, his goal was to get to Rome. But Paul chose to treat each day along the way as an opportunity to change someone’s life.
Lesson learned – Look towards your goal. But don’t overlook the opportunity to share Christ’s love to everyone you meet along the way.