Once upon a time, Saul of Tarsus was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1).
Today, his advice on fighting the good fight continues to sound from pulpits and resound in faithful hearts worldwide.
Saul’s transformation contains important lessons for those who would follow Christ today, under the lordship of despots who would make our social privileges contingent on denying objective reality.
In Saul’s case, the first move was on God’s part. “Suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him,” and the once threatening figure fell to the ground. “Trembling and astonished,” he was instantly ready to receive new marching orders (Acts 9:3-6).
We do well to remember that our God, much like C. S. Lewis’s Aslan, is no tame lion.
Eager as Saul was to change his ways after this encounter, divine wisdom demanded the intervention of a human agent.
As Saul was fasting and praying, the Lord called upon “a certain disciple,” “named Ananias,” to pay him a visit.
Not surprisingly, Ananias is afraid. On receiving his orders, he reminds the Lord of the many witnesses who have described, in excruciating detail, “how much evil [Saul] has done to [Christ’s] saints” (Acts 9:10-13).
Ananias is not rebuked for his hesitation. Sanctity perfects prudence, and virtue does not require us to brave every danger this fallen world affords.
Yet Christ insists that this uncertain disciple visit his “vessel of election,” the future St. Paul, to restore his sight, fill him with the Holy Ghost, and commission him to “carry [the Lord’s] name before the Gentiles, and kings” (Acts 9:15-17).
As we pray for the conversion of those breathing slaughter against us, let us remember that our Lord is able to turn foes into friends, but often chooses to do so through the mediation of certain Christians.
Could that include us?
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