I have never seen Anne Frank’s house but I know it is a house with a secret. Today this secret is hardly a secret anymore as we all know about the hidden room used to hide Jews from the Nazis. It is a story of a Household daring to face the foe no matter what the cost.
Households facing a foe describes what is happening in Acts 8 as Saul goes from house to house arresting and imprisoning all who follow Jesus.
Saul goes from house to house because, like the Jews, the Household was where faith was nurtured and matured. Both Jews and Christians rooted their faith in the everydayness of life itself where worship and prayer were part and parcel of the meal table. Faith was shared in the stories they told their children and in how they lived their regular lives.
Saul’s actions were nothing new as similar persecution is described in the books of the Maccabees. These books tell the gripping story of how Israel’s faith instead of withering and dying, grew and grew in the face of appalling brutality. This stirred Israel to dare to believe that resistance was not futile because in persecution faith could not merely survive but thrive.
This story of faith surviving and thriving is the story of Acts 8. Their faith survived and thrived because when they were forced to leave Jerusalem, they learned to live their faith without the support and care of the Apostles.
Their faith survived and thrived because when they were forced to leave Jerusalem they understood, like the Maccabees, that faith always includes suffering. They learned that suffering was not just a mark of discipleship but that it was something God uses to further his plans and purposes for all creation.
Like the Maccabees, like Acts 8, our faith can survive and thrive too. It can survive and thrive because in such times like these we discover that sorrow and suffering are not signs of faith’s failure but its refining. In the fires of sorrow and suffering we learn faith is to pray your will be done, not mine. In the fires of sorrow and suffering we discover faith is not a matter of seeing first and then believing, but of believing first even when we cannot see.
Where do we learn these things? We learn them in the same place the church in Acts 8 and Israel in Maccabees did; we learn them in our homes.