“So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)
The Book of Acts reports that the Sanhedrin had arrested the apostles and wanted to put them to death because they continued to preach about Jesus contrary to the Sanhedrin’s orders. A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was well respected, cautioned them not to carry out their intention. He said that if the disciples’ actions were of human origin they will eventually fail. But if they are motivated by the desire to do God’s will they will endure, and the Sanhedrin will actually find themselves fighting against God.
If our actions are of human origin – motivated by ambition, pride, recognition, anger, resentment, revenge, sexual immorality, etc., they will eventually fail. If they are motivated by the desire to do God’s will they will endure.
St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that “love never fails.” He goes on to say that three things always remain, “faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The effects of a kind word or a merciful act last forever, radiating outward to others like the ripples from a pebble thrown in a pond. Let me illustrate with a story.
On the day I was scheduled for prostate cancer surgery a number of years ago, a snow storm almost prevented us from getting to the hospital. While I was being readied for surgery in the pre-op unit, a nurse came in to say that my brother was outside and wanted to come in and pray with me. He was a brother in Christ, whose name was Dave. He soon had everyone standing around my bed holding hands, including the two surgeons still in their hooded parkas, the nurses, and my wife as he boldly, but humbly, led a prayer for the doctors and the success of the surgery.
What was remarkable about all of this was that my friend, himself, was suffering from renal cell carcinoma and a neuropathy in his feet which made it difficult for him to walk. To this day, I do not know how he was able to travel the twelve miles in a snow storm to get to the hospital. His act of love and the memory of that scene will be seared in my memory for eternity.
We might ask ourselves, are my actions motivated by seeking God’s will, or are they of human origin motivated by my own self-interest? Am I fighting against God, as Gamaliel observes, or am I letting the Holy Spirit work through me for his end and purpose?