Acts 9:4-7 (ESV)
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.”
I have a friend who I have shared the Gospel with a couple times who is always gracious to listen and is always very polite to allow me to finish my message before he completely dismisses what I have said as something that to him could not possibly be true. I also have a friend that is very militant in his opposition to theism and Christianity. Often, he is crude and offensive in his opposition. Interestingly, I find that I when I think about my polite friend I am more inclined to try to share the Gospel with him again than with my offensive friend. Thinking about it I think I talk myself into believing that my friend who is not a jerk to me is more likely to eventually become a Christian than my offensive friend. Reading about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9 this week has challenged me to rethink my approach to who may and may not be saved.
Saul of Tarsus was adamantly opposed to the new Christian faith that sprang up in his area of the world a couple thousand years ago. He had listened to the arguments presented by the followers of Jesus and dismissed them as offensive blasphemy. So offended by the message of Jesus, Saul spearheaded a movement to violently eradicate this message from the Earth. He approvingly witnessed the stoning execution of Stephen, one of the early proclaimers of Jesus, and he sought and was given legal approval to round up early Christians and imprison them in an attempt to silence the gospel of Jesus. I am confident that if I were sharing the gospel in first century Palestine, Saul would not have been someone I would have wanted to encounter. Yet in a moment, as highlighted in the scripture above, Jesus converts Saul and he becomes a Christian.
It still amazes me that God takes what is seemingly the most flawed and most broken individuals and uses them for his purposes. What I forget sometimes is that all of us are flawed and broken in many ways and its just that our flaws and brokenness don’t always have the audience or the opportunities that Saul’s did. I forget many times that its not up to me to determine who will saved. That’s Jesus’ call. What Jesus has asked me to do is to proclaim his message and to share the good news of the gospel and be faithful to love and pray for those in my life, even those who vehemently and offensively oppose Jesus.
I would challenge everyone to read Acts 8 and 9 today and think of someone who you don’t think will ever be a Christian. Put their name on a calendar and faithful pray that God would open their eyes to the truth. You never know what may happen. Saul became Paul and because of his submission to Jesus went on to spread Christianity throughout much of the Mediterranean. He planted several churches and the letters he wrote to his congregations make up a large portion of the Bible. You never know who God is going to use and for what purpose. As followers of Jesus we must be diligent to pray and to share and to serve and to love and to wait and to see what God does in the lives of people around us.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your revealed will in the Scriptures. Thank you that we can seek you in prayer and study and that you illuminate our path with your Word and your fellowship. Forgive us for the people that we have given up on and help us be diligent in prayer for the lost and for the building of your kingdom. We offer you praise and thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.