Paul, of course, has always been my favorite hero of the Bible (next to the Savior). He wrote almost half of our New Testament, he was God’s instrument in dashing to pieces the great divide between Jew and Gentile, and he—more than any other human in history—laid out for us the meaning of the Cross. The Gospels tell us what Jesus did, but Paul is our first source for telling us what it meant.
But he didn’t start out there. In a way, that only makes his story more dramatic. Peter was mostly minding his own business (literally) when Jesus met and called him. Matthew was performing a pretty unsavory job when the Savior called him, but he wasn’t actively opposing Jesus’ ministry. Paul was. The modern notion of “You have your beliefs and I have mine”? Not in Paul’s mindset. He wasn’t content with refuting the disciples of this Yeshua. He wasn’t content even with driving them out of Jerusalem. He was following them from town to town, hauling Christians out of homes and throwing them into prison and likely bringing them to an early grave.
Then he met Jesus. He was on the road to Damascus to find more Christians to persecute when the Lord of Heaven appeared to him. And his life was changed forever. God alone knows the eternal impact that one moment will make.
You’re probably familiar with the story. But there one thing here I’d like to camp out on, because it’s pretty meaningful to our understanding of the Church. The bright light came upon Saul (as he was known then), knocking him off his animal. A voice from Heaven asked him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked him who he was, and the Lord told him “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Wait a second. As far as we know, Paul had never met Jesus while the Lord was living on the earth. So why did Jesus tell him—not once, but twice—that Paul was persecuting him?
My friend, what did the Lord God say about Israel? What did he call her? In Deuteronomy God refers to her as “the apple of his eye.” Have you ever thought about what that means? Where did we get that phrase? Literally the Hebrew term means “little man” in the eye, the reflection you see. The NIV translates it as “apple of his eye” because that’s closest equivalent. The “apple” in your eye is the pupil, the most sensitive part of your body. If a piece of sand or dirt gets in there, you’ll spare no expense to get it out. If it gets threatened, you’ll guard that part of your body like it’s the most precious thing on the planet.
That’s the same idea here. When Paul struck the Church, Jesus felt it as unto himself. Each blow was felt as if it was upon him.
We’re the Body of Christ, after all. What do you think that means, anyway? Do you think that it’s just a nice way of saying he feels solidarity with us? No. We are mystically, mysteriously, and permanently joined to him. What happens to us, happens to Jesus. What happens to him, happens to us.
So how does this affect us in our daily life? Well, I can think of three ways off the bat.
First, if you think you’re alone in facing your problems, you’re not. As a believer, you’re part of his Body. Your pains are his. He chose to join himself to you and thus make your pains his own.
Second, when you hear about Christians being persecuted--and I hope you’re putting some effort into finding out about what’s happening to the Church outside your little world—don’t think for a moment that because the Lord isn’t openly acting that he doesn’t care about it. When the Church is struck, he feels it. And someday soon he’s going to do something about it.
And third, please keep this mind. When you strike another believer, you’re striking the Church, and you’re striking your Savior. Before you speak out in malice or anger or carelessness, please stop for a moment to think. Please.
Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the times I’ve struck another believer. I’ve never used fists, but my words can cut worse than any knife. Please forgive, and please change me.
Post a Comment