Over the next three days we will diving into a story of transformation. It is the story of a sudden and complete U-turn that has a significant effect on our faith. Take a moment and read Acts 9:1-20.
“Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” – Acts 9:1-2
The best villains believe they are the hero. Creative writing mentors often recommend crafting an antagonist who is convinced that he/she is the protagonist. We’ve seen this dynamic play out in stories of all genres. Unfortunately, this is not merely a literary device. In one form or another, you have probably seen someone in real life make dangerous or harmful decisions because they were convinced they were right. The book of Proverbs refers to this situation by saying, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2; 21:2)
When someone believes themselves to be on the side of righteousness and loses their grasp of humility, they can become dangerous. People will go to great lengths to prove their perspective and can hurt people along the way. This was the case for Saul of Tarsus.
Saul was said to be a student of a famous rabbi named Gamaliel. Gamaliel was well known as a wise and patience rabbi. In Acts 5, the Jewish leaders are debating about what to do about the Christians. Gamaliel advises that they wait and watch. His reasoning is that if these people are not of God then their efforts will come to an end all on their own. However, if they are of God, then attacking the early Christ-followers will only mean that they are attacking God. Gamaliel’s humble advice wins the day and he continues to advocate for tolerance, patience, and observation with the Christians. Unfortunately, this lesson seems to have been lost on Saul.
Saul is convinced that Christians are heretics and trouble makers who are dishonoring God and causing tension with the Romans. Saul believes that the communities of Christ-followers need to be stamped out. He went to the High Priest to receive the authority to hunt down and break up Christian communities. He is convinced of his position and is willing to be an agent of suffering to see his perspective proven true.
The opening verses of Saul’s story remind us to pause before our pronouncements; to seek feedback from a friend before rendering final judgment; to be honest with ourselves about our longings; and most importantly, to “Commit to the Lord whatever you do” (Proverbs 16:3).
The scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. The spirit’s role is to guide us to truth, to lead us with peace, and to bring us to Christ.
Unbeknownst to Saul at this point in the story, the Holy Spirit is leading him to Christ. Soon Saul will discover the truth in the adage, “righteousness cannot be born until self-righteousness is dead.”
May God give you insight into the hopes and hurts that motivate you so that you might bring them into the light of grace. May you grow in your trust of God so that you might take another step of faith. And may God help you discern when to trust your gut and when your gut could use God’s guidance.