The Bad Guy
If we’re watching a classic western and the first scene is a mob lynching, the guy who stands at the side as they throw the rope over the tree limb, watches as they adjust the noose around the victim’s neck, and then whistles as they hit the flank of the horse leaving their victim hanging limp and lifeless, is definitely one of the bad guys, probably the worst of the worst.
When Dr. Luke introduces us for the first time to Saul of Tarsus, he is the worst of the worst.
“They drove Stephen outside the city and stoned him to death. The witnesses against him, the ones who executed him, took off their outer robes and threw them at the feet of a young man named Saul….Now Saul was in strong agreement with the murder of Stephen, and on that day a great persecution broke out against the church of Jerusalem. All, except the Apostles, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Now some godly men came and buried Stephen, and mourned deeply over him. But Saul was wreaking havoc against the church. Making house to house searches, he dragged out men and women and threw them in prison.”
If I’m a member of the Jerusalem church, Saul is enemy number one, the worst of the worst. We need to not jump so quickly to his conversion on the Damascus road. If we are going to get the depth of God’s powerful grace, we need to see him nod in agreement as the stones crush Stephen’s life. We need to see his zealous rage as he makes house-to-house searches and destroys families throwing husbands and wives in jail.
LORD, if you can transform Saul, I need to realize that you can transform anyone. Help me never forget that you’re still taking persecutors and changing them into powerful proclaimers of your Son’s grace. And tenderly comfort believers in prison because of their belief in Jesus and those who face martyrdom like Stephen.
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