We read accounts of severe persecution occurring around the world. Sometimes, these accounts concern religious belief. Consider the following:
“The chief tribesman approved of the stoning because of the accused’s open opposition to the tribesman’s and his tribe’s religious beliefs, in addition to the accused’s and his party’s despised religious beliefs. The chief tribesman’s more powerful army increased a great persecution against those with opposing religious beliefs. The army, led by the chief tribesman and his lieutenants, took every opportunity to destroy all who opposed them. Going from house to house, they dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”
The above may have been an AP article or one in the Times or Post. But it appears elsewhere–in Acts 8:1-3. The chief persecutor was Saul, who became Paul. Saul was responsible for violent acts like those we read about today in the Times and Post. We know that, but we are more likely to think of Paul instead of Saul. We know the account of Saul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus, but we are more likely to think of Paul’s unparalleled work in establishing the early church and preaching the gospel.
What often escapes our attention altogether is the fact that Saul, despite his shameful sins and terrible acts toward other humans, was forgiven by God. We too are sinners, maybe not in the ways Saul sinned, but the sins we commit like the sins Saul committed, however shameful or terrible, are subject to God’s gracious forgiveness.
Our sins can become debilitating burdens–unless we give them up to our Father’s forgiveness. We need God’s mercy and grace, and they are ours through God’s forgiveness, just as they were for Saul.
Thanks be to God!