Kicking Against the Goads


A reading for Friday, September 25, 2020: Acts 26:12-18.

"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads."

In the ancient Greek and Roman world, there was a commonly used expression, "kicking against the goads." A goad was a long stick, blunt on one end and sharpened to a point on the other. Farmers and ox cart drivers used the goad to urge their animals along when plowing a field or pulling a cart using the pointed end. If the animal was particularly stubborn, and didn't want to move forward they felt the pointed end of the stick.

If the animal was really really stubborn, they might even "kick at the goad" in protest thus injuring themselves by driving the sharp stick into their legs or hind quarters. It was an expression used by the Romans in particular to describe when people were injuring themselves and their families by resisting Roman rule and occupation.

So Paul tells Agrippa that Jesus came to Paul in a bright-light vision, and asked him why he was hurting himself and resisting Jesus and by "kicking against the goads." The sense is that Paul was being really really stubborn and was only causing injury to himself by continuing to chase down and persecute Christians and resisting Jesus claim on his life. (It's also a not so veiled condemnation of Roman resistance to Jesus too, by the way.)

Are we stubborn like Paul? Are we only injuring ourselves when we fail to ask the simple question implied by today's lesson? Jesus, Lord, what is your will for my life?

For Paul, the answer to that question not only changed his life but changed the world forever. What is your answer? It might just bring the change you long for and the world needs. Thanks be to God.


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