Hope For The Most Hardened Criminal

29th June

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord?” And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting.””

Acts 9:3-5

The Apostle Paul, who wrote so much of the beloved New Testament writings, had a horrific past. If you read his words of love and peace, there is no way you would believe that he actually hated “The Way”. In fact, verses 1 – 2 of chapter 9, tell us that every breath Saul breathed were threatening promises to kill the Lord’s followers. He was there at Stephen’s death, giving his approval. He went from home to home in Jerusalem dragging out believers and throwing them into prison, going around destroying the churches. When he spoke, it was only words of hate. Yet Saul did not realise he was fighting against the Lord Jesus Christ by persecuting His children.

Saul, with the acceptance letters from the synagogues in Damascus in hand, headed to cause further damage by destroying the churches in Damascus and all who followed “The Way”. As he journeyed with some of his followers, a bright light from Heaven shone down and blinded Saul. However, through the confusion, Saul heard Jesus’ voice calling out to him saying, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” Jesus showed His grace to Saul, forgave him and day by day continued to reveal Himself to him. Paul then went on to be one of the founders of the early church and His words in the New Testament are a daily encouragement for believers around the world.

Even if the most hardened criminals and the most hateful people have a chance to encounter the mighty presence of God. When we look at a world filled with hate and violence, do we see people the way God sees them or do we look at them wanting revenge or justice? Saul, before his encounter with Christ, was so hateful towards the believers, imprisoning them and even killing them. Yet God had other plans for Saul. God saw in Saul, a zeal and enthusiasm to proclaim His message of love and grace. We should not be too quick to judge our enemies, but rather pray that they too may have a Damascus experience and meet Jesus the Prince of Peace.

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