Our Sunday School lesson yesterday was about the conversion of Saul, or the Apostle Paul. God had to convince Ananias to go and lay hands on him to restore his sight. Saul had a reputation for murder and mayhem among believers in Christ. But God said go and Ananias went.
Some people might interpret this as meaning we should forgive our enemies. I think it means that only God can forgive sin. Paul later said himself, “Christ died to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” This was not some attempt at being able to move on with your life and letting go of bitterness and desire for justice or revenge. This was a conversion. Paul completely changed who and what he was because he accepted Christ’s atonement. And God forgave him, as only God can forgive. We can’t make anyone repent. Only God can. So only God can truly forgive.
I had never been struck by the truth that Paul’s conversion happened right there on the Damascus road when confronted by the blinding truth that Jesus is Lord. I sort of thought maybe Ananias preached the Gospel to him when he came. But, no, repentance, faith, and forgiveness had already taken place when Ananias was sent. Jesus already vouched for him, already said Paul was “okay,” chief of sinners though he was. Forgiven. Cleansed. And unlike Moses, Ananias didn’t take five tries to convince. He went after one.
The lesson here for us is that the worst person we can imagine can be converted. Truly saved by grace, through repentance, and forgiven. You fill in the names, which probably isn’t hard with the state of things in our country and our political wranglings at present. Which one of the past “bad presidents” or present candidates, is beyond saving? None. And at that point maybe we will be the Ananias called upon to go to that person.
Will we be a Jonah and run the other way, or be angry that the person actually repented? Will we be a Moses, and make excuses until God is exasperated? Or will we be an Ananias, and at that point, say, if he or she is okay with Jesus, he’s okay with me? Because that chiefest of sinners in our minds could go on to do amazing things for God, like Paul did, and we would have a part in that ministry. — posy by Mary C. Findley
Nikolas Kornilievich Bodarevsky (1850–1921)
English: Trial of the Apostle Paul Transcarpathian Regional Art Museum Public Domain Wikimedia Commons