Tuesday, 26 July 2022
“Who are you, Lord? I asked. And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” Acts 26:15
In today’s key verse, we see a one-to-one conversation between Saul, before his conversion (later his name was changed to Paul), and the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Before his conversion, Paul was an angry man, exceedingly enraged especially with the followers of Christ. This rage against the people of God showed that his relationship with God was not right, despite all his diligent religious activity and devotion.
Let us go through verses 12 to 14: “One day I was in such a mission to Damascus… About noon, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on and my companions. We fell down and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.” This is the context in which Saul asked the question, ‘Who are you Lord?’.
We need to understand what persecution is and few of the historic torment our forefathers had to go through. Persecution is the act of harassing, oppressing, or killing people because of their difference from society-when they do not conform to what a particular society/group believes or does. Christians were persecuted because their belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior does not conform to the godlessness of the world. The Pharisees persecuted Jesus because He did not follow their man-made legalism. Following Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, organized persecution of the early church started. One of the most zealous opponents of the first followers of Christ, was this Saul of Tarsus, who now testifies of his transformation. Paul was later beheaded by the order of the Emperor Nero and the Apostle Peter was reported to have been crucified upside down in Rome.
Let us look at what changed Paul – it was that encounter with Jesus that changed him radically. Paul was changed to such an extent that he became zealous to preach about Christ – that was the impact of the encounter he had with Christ!
He was probably thinking of Stephen in Acts 7 when he said, ‘I cast my vote against them’ (Vs 10) - all of which he deeply regretted, and was forgiven of them all. For when you put faith in Jesus, the first thing to be removed are your sins—even of the past!
In fact Jesus Christ and Apostles taught us on this very subject:
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
Christ also promised rewards to those who endure persecution:
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven,…." (Matthew 5:11-12)
Paul reminds us “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
What should be the reaction of a Christian towards persecution? Our Lord Jesus taught us to ‘LOVE’ our enemies. Only love can conquer the entire world and transform mankind, even cannibals.
Jesus is the incarnated love of God. People might say that He was crucified and buried, but the truth is He was resurrected and is living today. The same Jesus is alive and capable to deal with the persecutors of this present day, whoever they may be. That very encounter transformed Saul to be the promoter of the Good News through whom the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles. Nothing is impossible with God and He is able. May His will be done on this earth as it is in heaven. He still loves everyone and His love endures forever.
Commitment: "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2Cor. 12:10)