Lessons from Priscilla (and Aquilla)

Ministry of the Apostles, a complex multi-figu...

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Sometimes the writers of the Bible tell us interesting things in the most matter of fact way. Perhaps because they didn’t have to compete for attention in our 24 hours news and opinion cacophony, they didn’t feel the need to indulge in sensationalized speech. I try to routinely remind myself to read carefully because it is easy to skim right over interesting stories.

Consider these four verses from “The Acts of the Apostles”

Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only of the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquilla heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.    Acts 18:24-28

If you said to yourself, “Okay, so what?” I wouldn’t blame you. What is most remarkable about this passage is its matter of fact style. The author doesn’t seem to think he is saying anything particularly astounding and that is really interesting.  I think there are two interesting, not astounding, but interesting things to notice about these four verses.

There are Christians who in all sincerity believe women should not fully and equally participate in the life of the church. This little passage, like several others in the Bible,begs to differ.  Priscilla’s participation in the church is mentioned very matter of factly. No effort is made to explain or defend what Priscilla does, the author simply assumes what she does is appropriate.  Her actions with Apollos are told to us as if they were completely normal and natural. In “Acts” there is quite a bit of discussion about how Gentile believers “fit” into the Way. There is no discussion about how women “fit” in. Women are simply present and active and the writer of “Acts” doesn’t seen to think their presence requires much comment. It’s the dog that doesn’t bark.

The second interesting thing about this passage is what Priscilla and Aquilla do when they discover Apollos isn’t completely correct in everything that he is teaching. Apollos evidently had what we might call some errors in his belief or doctrine. What do Priscilla and Aquilla do? They “took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.” My hunch is that there is more to this story than that short phrase tells us, particularly based on what we know about other disagreements in the early church. Never the less, no one makes a big scene. No one expels someone else from the congregation. No one leaves and starts their own church. No one tweets “Adios Apollos”. No, they seem to have talked it out and then fully supported Apollos.

Now, I am not saying that disagreements in the church are simple to resolve. My denomination (Presbyterian Church, USA) has spent decades wrestling with the question of what impact one’s sexual orientation ought to have (if any) on one’s ability to serve the church. And we’re not done,  we have more talking to do. Talking candidly and carefully and lovingly with those with whom we have disagreements is difficult to do.

But the assumption, I think, in this passage in Acts is that we can and should talk things over and that we ought to remain supportive of each other. If Priscilla and Aquilla and Apollos can do it, we at least ought to try.

These comments on this short passage in Acts isn’t ground breaking stuff, I know. These few verses aren’t going to change anyone’s mind or settle any disagreements. Rather, I think, these verses are a little, gentle reminder. We’re going to have disagreements about things in the church. We’re human, we can’t help but disagree. Since the earliest days of the church, someone has had to take someone else aside and talk with them. Life today is no different. So support each other, even when we disagree. Be kind. Be patient. Love God. Love your neighbor.

Just like Priscilla.

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One Response to “Lessons from Priscilla (and Aquilla)”

  1. mafri.ws Says:

    mafri…

    […]Lessons from Priscilla (and Aquilla) « Conversation in Faith Weblog[…]…

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