Then an older friend told me what to do with them. They make the best pear preserves you ever dripped over a biscuit—amber colored, clear chunks of fruit swimming in a sea of thick, caramel flavored syrup. Then she made a cobbler and I thought I was eating apples instead of pears. No, you don’t want to eat them out of hand unless they are almost overripe, but you most certainly do want to spoon out those preserves and dig into that cinnamon-scented, crunchy topped cobbler. They aren’t pretty; they are hard to peel and chop; but don’t give up on them if you are ever lucky enough to get some.
A lot of us give up on people out there. We see the open sin in their lives and the culture they come from and decide they could never change. Have you ever studied the Herods in the New Testament? If ever there was a soap opera family, one that would even make Jerry Springer blush, it’s them. They were completely devoid of “natural affection,” sons trying to assassinate fathers, and fathers putting sons and wives to death. Their sex lives were an open sewer—swapping husbands at a whim; a brother and sister living together as a married couple; leaving marriages without even a Roman divorce and solely for the sake of power and influence.
Yet Paul approaches Herod Agrippa II, the son of Herod Agrippa I who had James killed and Peter imprisoned, the grandnephew of Antipas who had John the Baptist imprisoned and killed after taking his brother’s wife, great-grandson of Herod the Great who had the babies killed at Jesus’ birth, a man who even then was living with his sister, almost as if he expected to convert him. Listen to this:
I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently, Acts 26:2,3.
Yes, I am sure there was some tact involved there, but did you know that Agrippa had been appointed advisor in Jewish social and religious customs? Somehow the Romans knew that he had spent time becoming familiar with his adopted religion—during the time between the Testaments the Herods were forced to become Jews and then later married into the family of John Hyrcanus, a priest. No, he didn’t live Judaism very well, but then neither did many of the Pharisees nor half the priesthood at that point. But Agrippa knew Judaism, and Paul was counting on that.
Paul then spends verses 9 through 23 telling Agrippa of the monumental change he had made in his own life. Here was a man educated at the feet of the most famous teacher of his times, the rising star of Judaism, destined to the Sanhedrin at the very least, fame and probably fortune as well. Look at the list of things he “counts as loss” in Philippians 3. Yet this man gives it all up and becomes one of the hated group he had formerly imprisoned and persecuted to the death, forced to live on the charity of the very group he had hated along with a pittance from making a tent here and there. Talk about a turnaround. Do you think he told Agrippa his story just to entertain him? Maybe he was making this point—yes, you have a lot to change, but if I could do it, so can you.
In verse 27, he makes his final plea--King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe! Paul had not given up on changing this man whom many of us would never have even tried to convert. And it “almost” worked.
Who have you given up on? Who has a hard heart, a lifestyle that would be useless to anyone but God? Who, like these pears, needs the heat of preaching and the sweet of compassion? Who could change if someone just believed in them enough?
Sand pears seem tasteless to people who don’t work with them, who don’t spend the time necessary to treat them in the way they require. Are we too busy to save a soul that is a little harder than most? Who took the time to cook you into a malleable heart for God? It’s time to return the favor.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses... Ezek 36:26-29.