By James Michael Jones
I am blown away by Jesus’ graciousness to Saul (Acts 9:1-19). For years Paul was a member of the Pharisees, the group Jesus said were blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:14). They persecuted Jesus’ followers after His resurrection. If there was ever an organized religious group responsible for driving people away from Jesus, it was the Pharisees. They literally had blood on their hands!
Jesus was not afraid of rebuking this self-righteous, dead group of men (Matthew 23). But, Jesus did not live on a soapbox of bitterness against them. For all the pain and hurt the Pharisees did to people seeking Jesus, He still loved them. It was this love that allowed Jesus to reach out to Saul the Pharisee on his way to Damascus to hurt more Christians.
Let me be clear about what I mean by Saul hurting the church. It was much more than demanding people only use the KJV. Saul went far beyond forcing his own agenda in church business meetings. Saul’s actions dug much deeper than saying other churches, homosexuals, abortionists and Democrats were going to hell. While all of those actions can drive people from the church and Jesus, Saul went so far as to physically separate families, even to the point of death. If anyone could be found guilty of hurting the church, look no farther than Saul (Acts 8:3; 9:4).
For all the hurt the Pharisees and Saul brought to Jesus over the years, Jesus still loved him. Jesus saw through the hurt Saul inflicted on others and observed a heart that, deep down, was zealous for God (Acts 23:1; 24:16). On the outside all Christians could see was a man to be feared, a destroyer of churches (Acts 9:26-27). But, there was much more to this man.
I hope and pray you love God’s people. I hope you love saint and sinner alike. If you are reading this I bet you have a heart for God and His mission. I know full well that when you are committed to a mission, especially to the Lord’s, you can get protective. The last thing you want to see is someone get in the way of the positive momentum of the Kingdom of God. You do not want a Pharisee (or, a bunch of legalistic churches) to hinder the growth of God’s people. You dread the thought of hurting, lost souls confusing hypocrisy and legalism for Jesus.
How far do we go to prevent that danger? How much can Facebook posts, blog posts/comments, Tweets, private conversations and musings dwell on the destruction and havoc that has been wrought on the church by these people? If a large portion of time is spent writing and talking against these enemies of the cross, how much time will outsiders witness us loving the Pharisee?
If I can’t love a Pharisee, how can I love “the least of these”? Even Nicodemus, a Pharisee, believed he could come to Jesus. Jesus’ encounter with Saul on the Damascus road is recorded three times in Acts! What a witness of love! I have discovered the ones I have the hardest time loving need it the most. Yes, the drunkards and prostitutes need my love. But, so does the Pharisee. If I am intent on pursuing God’s mission, may my mission be to pursue the people Jesus did. That included the Pharisees.
About James: He’s blessed and honored to be Tabbetha’s husband, and his three children captured his heart. He’s spent several years preaching from compulsion, only to find love for it later on.
Personal thought: James and I met on Twitter. He’s one of the dudes that continues to challenge me with his thoughts and questions. On his own blog he wrote a post titled Would You Have A Beer With Jesus? that truly resonates with me because it’s the very thing people around me deal with. No, not the beer part, but the legalism that comes with living in the Bible belt for consuming alcohol. James addresses this issue with much grace in his own series. Man, I love his heart.
Check out his personal blog: Forgiveness Factor
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