the kindness of the centurion, Julius, Acts 27

2 Jul

“The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.” Fred Rogers

On his journeys as the Pharisee Saul and as a changed new believer in Jesus, Paul encounters, and embodies evil and kindness; death and resurrected life; blindness and sight.

As Saul, he held cloaks of murderers and agrees to Stephen’s death; as Paul, he prays over, baptises and, in kindness forgives jailers.

As a persecuting Pharisee, he travels to Damascus to break up and imprison families. As Paul, he gently restores churches with his healing words, his letters, his epistles.

And blindness on the Pharisee road is replaced by the sight and sound of Jesus which lead to Ananias’ hands, life and loving forgiveness.

But this is all Paul, his journeys, his life.

There are others Paul meets on his many roads. Not the least is Julius, a Roman centurion,

‘When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. 2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.

3 The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. 4 From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board.’

Julius, without any doubt, is life-battled, a hardened Roman soldier. He is a Centurion, who is in ‘kindness’ to Paul.

But, this is not really so. Why?

Because Julius’ kindness is not directed to Paul. It is given to another.

In the Greek ‘kindness’ is chréstos or ‘gentleness.’ Here we have a soldier moved to a soft, empathetic touch. Gentle. Julius gently allows Paul community with friends who meets his needs. But his real need is for a touch, a loving touch. And Julius gives it because he sees not just Paul but Jesus through Paul’s words, through Paul’s actions.

Julius can be gentle because sees God and not bust Paul. And this sight melts a hard soldier into an empathetic man who sees, hears and feels.

And in seeing Julius is named for kindness.

With his name Julius lives and he will travel beside Paul.

Each makes the other, gently, human. Kindness makes us all human. It is the most honest of all gifts.

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