And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
When I was in 8th grade, there was a kid in my school who decided it was his personal mission to make my life miserable. We were on the football team together, played in band together and had one or two classes together. But he picked me out as someone he definitely didn’t like, almost from the first day he met me. And so every day, he got together with a few of the big guys on the football team, and he would seek me out, looking to intimidate me and make me afraid.
He did a good job of it. Things got bad enough that I asked my parents if I could go to a different school. Needless to say, this guy was not my favorite person. Imagine this scenario. One day, God speaks to me and says, “You know that guy who has been after you? He got hurt pretty badly in practice today, and he’ll be in the hospital for a while.” (At this point, you know I’d be smiling and thinking, “Serves him right. I hope it hurt a lot!”)
But then God says, “I want you to go and be a friend to him.” (At which point, I’d be thinking, “No way! After what he’s done to me? He’s the last guy I’d be friends with!) And then God goes further, saying, “Don’t think ‘No way.’ In fact, I want you to go help nurse him back to health.” (And here I’d definitely make my formal objection. Even God couldn’t expect me to be that nice to my tormentor.)
But God has a different way of looking at things. In today’s scripture, we read about Saul, who wasn’t just a bully – he was basically an assassin. His job was to pursue Christians and not only make their lives miserable – he was supposed to arrest followers of Jesus and drag them in front of the Jewish leaders for their brand of justice. Worse, he probably also stirred up mobs to get them to bring about “instant justice” by stoning Christians to death. When Saul was blinded, he was on his way to Damascus – and Ananias was probably one of his targets.
So when God told Ananias to find Saul and look after him and pray for him, the Bible makes it clear that Ananias wasn’t too thrilled with the idea. But Ananias did obey, and because of his obedience, Saul became a Christian convert. He changed his name to Paul and helped bring Christianity to the whole world. Paul is regarded as the second most important figure in Christian history, but he couldn’t have accomplished anything without Ananias.
There may be someone in your life who makes you miserable, and maybe even seems to enjoy doing it. But God wants all of us to show His love to everyone – even and especially to those who are terrible to us. (Matthew 5:44 – “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”) This week, when someone is mean or hurtful to you, say a special prayer for them, and ask the Lord what you can do to show that person His love.
Reflection copyright © 2016 Doug DeBolt.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.