But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 SoAnanias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Faith for the Terrorist
We often think that the world, and Christians in particular, has never seen a time like ours. If we can get over ourselves for a moment, we see that Saul was dragging people out of their houses and having them arrested because of their faith. That is the backdrop of the miraculous conversion that gave the world one of its most fervent evangelists. If Osama bin Laden had been converted and not killed, what kind of evangelist would he have made? How would people have felt about his conversion? Those who mistreat Christians often feel that they are doing good in the world. Saul did not drag Christians from their homes because he thought he was doing evil. He chose a fervent discipleship of his perceived truth, but God stepped in miraculously and revealed that he was wrong. He lived in a pluralistic world. many religions and gods were tolerated in Saul’s time. Even the Jewish faith had special exemptions under Roman law so that it could exist with other faiths.
It is strange to me that those who demand tolerance are not tolerant of Christian belief. That is people who don’t believe are not tolerant of those whose Christian faith affects all of life. Jesus demands exclusive and total allegiance and that is offensive and wrong if a person wishes to believe that all ways lead to God. Saul understood the exclusive claims of Jesus’ followers and he opposed them. He then proposed the same exclusive faith that he opposed without compromise.
When we are opposed by a postmodern culture or Islamic terror, we need to remember that this kind of opposition is nothing new. The church in the West must pray for Saul-Paul-like conversions of key opposition figures. May those who seek to kill us not be killed in graceless actions of justice. We must wish for their conversion to new life rather than death.
Father, please save those who decapitate my brothers and sisters. If they must receive your justice, then let it be so. However, let us love our enemies rather than wish for their destruction.
- How has Saul previously been described?
- How is he converted?
- Why do you think others didn’t experience Jesus in the same way although they were right there?
- How should we pray for our enemies?
- Is there anyone that you have given up on?