Acts 9:3-5. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 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.
Do you struggle with how you treat others?
Saul did. OK I admit that’s an understatement. Saul was a murderous hater of Christians. In fact this story in Acts 9 takes place as Saul is on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and destroy their lives. He had been “breathing out murderous threats” and was on his way to “cause havoc” among them. In short he wasn’t a very nice person.
Bu then something amazing happens to Saul on the road to Damascus. He is blinded by a bright light, thrown to the ground, and spoken to by Jesus. Yes, Jesus. And what Jesus says to him is no less amazing – why are you persecuting me? I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
Chances are you’re not as oppressive and murderous as Saul. But chances also are that you struggle to get along with others like we all do. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus called our hatred murder. And James, his brother, said the same thing, calling our quarrels a form of murder. Have you argued lately? Quarreled? Called someone a name under your breath? Have you attacked someone on social media? Or have you simply ignored others, making no effort to love your enemy?
Saul’s Damascus Road conversion offers us two thoughts that I think can help as we also struggle to get along with others.
1. Jesus has come to us.
Saul wasn’t going to figure out his sin, hatred, and unrighteousness on his own. This man’s conversion at the sight of the resurrected Jesus is truly a miracle of grace. Saul would never find his way to Jesus alone. Jesus had to come to him.
And your conversion is actually no different. No less miraculous. No less the work of grace. Jesus also came to you when you would never have come to him. Think for a minute about how you “came to Christ” (isn’t that how we say it?). Did you really come to Christ, or did Christ come to you? Maybe it wasn’t a bright light that sent you to the ground blind. Maybe it was a VBS teacher, or your dad, or a pastor, or a radio program, or a friend, or simply reading the word of God. But it was Jesus. Jesus coming to you in his grace. Coming to someone who would never come to him.
Does this melt your heart? Does it allow you to see that you are no better than anyone else? Might this help you treat others better? Can you see that you might be the “Jesus” that comes to others?
2. Jesus is in us.
Did you catch the truly amazing thing that Jesus said to Saul in Acts 9? Jesus doesn’t ask Saul why are you persecuting my church? He asks why are you persecuting ME?
What if we could see that the way we treat other human beings, especially Christians, is how we are treating Christ himself? Here in Acts 9 Jesus makes it clear, to persecute Christians is to persecute him personally. In Matthew 25 Jesus made it clear that what we do for “the least of these” we are doing for him personally. Paul will later say that when we submit to one another we are submitting to Jesus personally (I wonder where he got that idea).
I know that if Jesus was in the room with us we would have no problem being nice to him, treating him well, and going out of our way to make life great for him. But what about everyone else?
But what Jesus wants us to know is that he IS everyone else. His union with humanity by his incarnation and his union with the church by his death and resurrection have made it so that how we treat others IS how we are treating Jesus himself.
Does this melt your heart for others? Can you see Jesus in the faces of those around you?
“To live is Christ” is to be the Jesus that loves others and it is to love Jesus as you love others.
How do you see others? How do you treat others?
You in Christ
Can you embrace the truth that you are the “Jesus” that others see today? What makes this difficult? Easy?
Christ in you
How can you practice seeing Christ in others today?
Playlist: Songs of Caring and Kindness.