The Keeper Of The Coats

Jon Burgess


‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’ “But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’ ” Acts 22:19-21‬


The Apostle Paul was certain that his past would disqualify his future. He shares his sins openly with the angry crowd to make clear how the grace of God truly does cover it all. His life is an amazing illustration of the truth that no one is beyond the redemption of the Cross. He may not have killed Stephen himself but he makes it clear that he was in complete agreement as the keeper of the coats. Instead of saving an innocent man Paul helped the religious leaders have a greater range of motion so when they threw the stones it hit the target as hard as possible. He knew he was complicit in this crime. His guilt was shouted to the heavens though he never lifted a stone. Instead of making a difference he stood in indifference. He kept the coats of murderers from getting dusty while watching a man of God crushed in the dust. This clearly pained Paul as no end now that he was saved, but God was turning his greatest sins into salvation for others. No longer would Paul stand by when something needed to said. Paul would never again miss the chance to fight for justice and lay his life down in defense of another. Thus, even when faced with the angry crowd that wanted to kill him in Acts 21, he stops to talk to them for the chance that even one Stephen might be in the crowd. Paul would never carry coats again but instead would carry the cross of Christ wherever God would lead Him.


As I read Paul's testimony I can't help but wonder how often I have been a carrier of the coats? It's an uncomfortable question to ask, but the scripture demands that I do. Every time I stood passively by when some injustice was being done I have been a carrier of the coats. Every time the Lord has asked me to serve someone in need and I have dismissed it thinking "someone else will take care of them" I have been a carrier of the coats. Every time I've ignored The Holy Spirit when He has asked me to speak on something in my sermon that is controversial or uncomfortable I have been a carrier of the coats. This weekend in fact, I'm addressing racism in the church that exists on these islands. I didn't want to. Especially as a mainlander who is a guest on these islands. Yet, the Holy Spirit told me I could stand by passively as this issue stole the credibility of the message of the Cross simply because no one wants to address a touchy subject. This weekend I'm throwing the coats of indifference, passivity, and political correctness into the dust. I want to be a carrier of the Cross and the Cross demands I go where no one else wants to in order to bring healing and hope. I can't help but think of the famous quote by Edmond Burke that certainly applies here, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." I must do what I can where I can even if it means some may not like it.


Lord, forgive me my disobedience, pride and people pleasing. Forgive me carrying the coats of popular opinion and politically correct talk rather than the Cross of Jesus. Your Cross is an offense. It was never meant to be covered over, clothed in religious words or hidden in a closet. The Cross compels me to give everything I've got to address the division around me. "Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace." Ephesians 4:3. Making every effort means there's no room for a passive faith that looks the other way when we are hurting each other. I pray for this unity in the Body this weekend at New Hope.

Devotions for February 15

Leviticus 25
Psalms 25,26
Acts 22

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