Monday, August 28, 2006

Acts 9:19-31

Devoted to God, Saul had ardently opposed those who followed Jesus. Then, on his way to inflict his zeal on the Jesus-community in Damascus, Saul encountered the risen Jesus. That is, more truly, Jesus confronted Saul. In the exchange, Jesus revealed himself as lord of life and all creation to the world-upturned Saul. Blinded by glory, Saul perceived everything anew. Now devoted to God in Jesus, Saul ardently turned to spread the good news of Jesus among his fellow Jews.

Is it any wonder the Jesus-followers in Damascus and Jerusalem questioned and doubted whether the story was true? Saul’s reputation as a terror to the Jesus-community preceded him. Now came the claim that he had changed around radically to advocate, with zeal and power, the person and cause of Jesus! No wonder his former targets expressed skepticism and fear at first about the authenticity of Saul’s conversion.

In a real sense, though, it is a wonder. Many in Damascus and Jerusalem had experienced deep and marvelous life-change in Jesus. They knew the mercy and power of Jesus’ transformation of their own lives. When it came to Saul, their first response appears to have been to lose sight of what God can do in Jesus. Doubt came more easily and naturally than trust.

I find I tend this way all too easily and naturally, too. I doubt rather than trust God’s power to transform my recalcitrant heart. I doubt rather than trust God’s power to transform individuals and relationships among my family, friends, neighbors, and community. Yet God clearly and passionately desires and acts to transform. This is the story of the cross and resurrection. This is the story of Peter and the apostles. This is the story of Saul and millions since to the present day. Radical, thorough-going transformation of people’s lives from death to life, from misery to hope, from enemies to lovers of Jesus – all in the mercy and power of God’s grace to us in Jesus.

For me and for all of us, may doubt and fear atrophy. May trust invigorate our whole being more this day and each day, all the way to thorough transformation in this life and the next. This is what God promises and longs to effect in each of us as followers of Jesus, who died and rose as both exemplar and guarantor of the authenticity of God’s astonishing, wondrous transformation.

Gregory Strong

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