Not long ago I was reading about the “Damascus Road” experience, which you may have heard of. It seems a Jewish religious leader named Saul was traveling toward Damascus from Jerusalem. Well, “traveling” makes it sound like a vacation. Actually he was hot on the trail of some Christians, whom he saw as dangerous heretics–enemies of God. He had received permission to have these folks jailed. The New Testament book of Acts says he was “breathing out murderous threats” against them. All, of course, from a sincere, zealous devotion to God.
After all, the Law was the Law. And those Christians kept talking about forgiveness and grace. Worse yet, they had the gall to insist that this Jesus character was equal to God Himself!
Well, Saul knew better than that. It was up to him to defend God against such obvious blasphemy… wasn’t it?
Of course it was, Saul would have said. Until a blinding light from heaven knocked him flat on the ground and a thunderous voice called him out by name.
“Saul! Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Saul may not have connected the Messianic prophecies with Jesus of Nazareth, but he sure knew this vision was from someone with serious authority. “Who are you, Lord?” he ventured.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…”
Uh-oh. Saul spent about two milliseconds saying goodbye to his previous notions about Jesus.
From then on, his life looked very different. First he got schooled for a while. Then he spent the rest of his days spreading the very message of grace and forgiveness he had been trying so hard to squelch. God even gave him a new name, “Paul.”
The new Paul preached and debated, but never again breathed out a murderous threat against anyone. When people disagreed with his faith, he showed them respect and compassion. He never again hauled anyone off to prison. In fact, he later spent a good bit of time in prisons himself, which he didn’t even complain about. Rather, he was thankful for the chance to tell his prison guards the astounding truth:
Jesus came to earth as God in human form, and sacrificed his life to provide forgiveness for us rebels–for every person who would repent and believe in him. Then he rose from the grave, defeating death and proving his identity as the Son of God.
Paul represented Jesus Christ well, telling the truth with the kindness and unconditional love God commands us to show.
How do I stack up? In the past I would get pretty mad when someone made fun of my faith in Christ. Of course, I never breathed out murderous threats.
Not out loud, anyway.
But that chip on my shoulder didn’t give an accurate picture of what Christ is like.
My point is, no one ever got scolded, shamed or bullied into trusting Christ. God knew these tactics wouldn’t work. That’s why he tells us to love one another.
As near as I can figure, if we’re violating God’s commands “in His name,” then we’re doing it wrong.
If you’re a Christian, do you ever try to convince others to believe in Jesus? If so, do you more often find yourself acting like Saul, or like Paul?
Thanks for reading,
PS: I am linked up this week with the Soli Deo Gloria Gathering. Pardon me while I go read some of their thoughtful words….