By Joyce Pelletier
Acts 9:1-6 "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul were speechless; they heard a sound, but they did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground and opened his eyes but saw nothing. He was now blind. Sometimes the word blinded means we refuse to see the truth. Until this encounter, Jesus blinded Saul, so he would later see.
This is not the end of the story, but what if we imagine ourselves on a road with a bunch of men going about murdering Christians, and probably many not understanding why. They were following Saul, thinking it was what they thought they must be doing.
Saul fell off his horse and immediately lost his sight. So bright was the light (of Jesus) that blinded Saul, to get his attention off his own plan and take on the new vision of Jesus Christ.
Romans tells us that Saul’s sight was restored. He knew he had encountered the Living God. God was merciful to Saul. In his old life he thought he was doing good, now his new life was completely turned around.
In Romans, the new man that Saul became, was a completely different person. In his old life He was determined to destroy those who believed, and now, everything was different. He had to experience that he was blinded and lived by his own interpretation of correcting the believers. Now that he was now born again, He was humbled to see the truth. After he got up off the ground, Jesus told Paul what he was to do. He obeyed with uncertainty, and because he needed the help of others, he obeyed what Jesus told him to do.
In this study of Romans, Paul came alive for me. I started to realize that Paul (after his name and identity were changed) traveled to many places preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Before he was judging the Christians, not realizing why. Now, he’s clear-headed and he knew and accepted the truth of God, that Jesus was the Savior and He let his presence be known to Saul. Even his name to Paul. Paul became well known as he began his life as a true Christian.
As I read the first chapter of Romans, I was discovering the man that Paul became. He went to Rome, not to judge them, but to reveal the truth of the salvation story. He guided the new believers back to where they needed to be, rather than continuing to be on the paths they had chosen after their experience on Pentecost. Saul had a new name and a new life. Our new life in Christ is being changed to love not judge.
Paul went to Rome to help these new Christians see how their life should now be. He never judged them. He loved them as Jesus had taught him. I learned that instead of getting angry over negative experiences, I had a choice to move on and reevaluate the way I should handle life’s challenges instead of being frustrated. I’m learning that when I truly love someone, I see things considerably differently. It helps me to be more accepting of others and helps me to forgive myself of the wrongs I do.
For myself, those forty something years ago, as I sat with my best friend, admitting that I didn’t have it all together, I listened to her share the Gospel of Jesus. From that day, my name didn’t change, but my life did. What I read in God’s Word, showed me how to appreciate that Paul wasn’t the only one to not judge, I’m included in that role. It is far more effective to love someone than to point fingers and tell them what they should or should not do. Paul showed them the way.
Coming through this study helped me see the new man, Paul. He’s the one I wanted to know, not the murderous person he used to be. It also showed me how my life has changed, too. I’m sure that most people can relate to our lives changing. We all have unique stories of our conversions. The changes we have experienced shows us how powerful God is. Romans 8:28 says that those who love God and are called in His plan, everything works together for good. There is no reason to fear when difficulties knock on our door.