Then the tribune came, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and, as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. (Acts 21:33-34)
This morning, as I read the biography of St. Francis provided in the Church of England’s Twitter feed, I was reminded that Francis, too, was bound in chains early in his life when his father took him to court for selling bolts of cloth (and the horse that had pulled the wagon) and giving the money to a local church.
In both cases, public opinion was sharply divided over these followers of Christ. In both cases, neither side of the debate got at the heart of the matter.
Was Paul teaching against Jewish law and actually bringing Greeks into the Temple? Was Francis undermining good order by his dramatic poverty and his embrace of lepers?
We’ve seen in history what happened to these two followers of the Gospel.
Paul’s radical new community — no longer male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free — became more accommodated to Greco-Roman society, even within the time period of the Nw Testament, and ultimately became the state religion of the Roman Empire.
Francis’ Friars Minor, even during his lifetime, preferred to live in convents like the other monastic orders — approved bastions of the Roman Church and medieval society 1,200 years on from the New Testament days — rather than following his simple rule of begging and preaching.
What still gets lost in the debate, even today, is the central question each of these men faced: How complete is Christ’s claim on my life?
Some shout one thing, some another, but what is the voice of the living Lord trying to say?