But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. – Acts 9:1-9
I can think of a few people who take their faith, politics, and values to an extreme that is uncomfortable to me – to say the least. The fanatical right or left-wing politician. The over-the-top religious fanatic. The we-don’t-eat-anything-that-can’t-be-eaten-with-a-spoon, (and neither should you!) food cop: I feel no great need for their company or influence. Oh how I wish they would experience a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment!
My motives for God’s intervention, however, are not about lessening the aggravation-factor of a misguided and bull-headed religious fanatic. God is not just frustrated with Saul’s antics and disappointed with his plans. Nor is God merely anxious about Saul’s plans to persecute the followers of Jesus.
All those are important and valid reasons forGod’s intervention in Saul’s plans and interruption of his travels. God will throw Saul to the ground. He will strike him blind. He will speak a powerful and theology-shaping message to his heart. He will set things in motion that will yield not just a dramatic conversion, but an ultimate reorientation from persecutor of the faith to a missionary and servant for the cause of the faith he was trying to destroy.
From this encounter will come a way of speaking about the church that Paul will use as he writes to the church in Corinth and which we use even today. Paul will refer to the church as the body of Christ. Perhaps that is because of this encounter: Saul was persecuting the church, and Jesus himself says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Persecute the church and you persecute Jesus, for the church is the body of Christ.
Jesus loves the church and will protect his people. He desires all people be saved. He will send Saul on missionary journeys, and people will be saved, and churches will be formed, and the body of Christ will grow and God’s good will will be done.