Holy Spirit, Spirit of Power, You grant me the courage I need to act. I bless Your Holy Name.
Read Acts 9:1-9
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
The God of the Bible is the God of the unexpected. You never know what his intervention can accomplish.
Who was Saul of Tarsus? He later describes himself as “a Hebrew of the Hebrews,” a Pharisee who pursued a faultless, “legalistic righteousness based on the law” (Phil. 3:5,6). He sounds like a religious fanatic whose fundamentalist approach could spill over into acts of violence. The world described in Acts was full of such people, especially in the rebellious province of Judea where Zealots and Shammaite Pharisees believed that acts of holy war against the Romans would trigger the reign of God. The Saul who issued “murderous threats” (1) against the followers of Jesus resembles today’s religious extremists who justify acts of terror in the name of God. Like theirs, Saul’s zeal in a holy cause was fueled by prayer and fasting.
The sudden and dramatic intervention of Christ in Saul’s life has often been described as resulting in his “conversion,” and has even been seen as representing a model of Christian conversion. There is little here, however, that corresponds to a normal Christian experience; rather, the text describes a revelation of the risen Jesus, a call to service, and a realization that, in his violence against the people of “the Way” (2), Saul was opposing the very God he imagined he was serving! He received a new vocation, which was yet to be explained to him.
If the parallel between the early Saul and those who pursue religious causes through violence today is valid, what should be our Christian attitude toward such people? The response of the world around us is clear: they are enemies of the state, but what if they, too, may be utterly transformed by grace? There are no easy answers, but should we not at least wrestle with what it means in these cases to obey Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” and bless and pray for them (Matt. 5:44)?
Reflect for a moment on someone whose beliefs might suggest they will never believe in Christ. Pray for them.
Open my eyes, Lord, so that I might truly see the difference Your grace can make in peoples’ lives.
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