By Pastor David M. Choi
Once he gives his life to Jesus, Saul goes from being persecutor to persecuted. By his own people, he is now seen as the great betrayer. “How could you, Saul? How could you abandon your faith, your identity, your people, and your God like this?” As a teacher of the law, Saul carried the enormous responsibility of not just enforcing the law but preserving the social, political, and theological narrative of Israel. However, after his conversion, Saul finally understands that the story he was telling was partial and incomplete. As he preaches, Saul is now saying, “God was doing so much more than what we could’ve imagined, because everything we hold true and dear was in fact pointing to the crucified Lord, Jesus Christ!”
Notice, Saul is not abandoning the history of Israel; rather, he is showing the people of Israel the vantage point from which they must stand if they are to understand that history correctly, which is in Christ (Matt. 5:17). But the people cannot accept this. They are too wedded to their traditions, their customs, their rigid and myopic frames of logic. They are afraid of what they don’t understand. In essence, they fear disruption. This is why they rejected and killed Stephen (Acts 7:54-60), and this is why they now seek to kill Saul as well (Acts 9:23). Indeed, we just got done hearing earlier that Saul must suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name (Acts 9:16). The suffering has now begun.
Whenever disciples proclaim the name of Christ, they are always at risk of being turned into betrayers, because the name of Christ always brings with it disruption. It calls people to repent, to reform their old habits, to point their lives in a new direction. It shatters false realities and exposes their deficiencies. In this way, disciples are betrayers, and always at risk of being labeled as such, because we live according to a disrupting name. Yet, at the same time, those who may call us betrayers are often not far from us. Sometimes, they are the people in our own church, as Christians often confuse obedience to Christ with obeying mere principles or conforming to certain churchly molds.
So, whether we’re in church or out in the world, obedience to Christ will mean we may be viewed as betrayers like Saul. Nonetheless, as Christians, the very lives we live must go on being disruptive, no matter where we go and no matter who we’re around, as we point people away from death to life in Christ. However, we are not meant to do this alone. We will need many friends to surround us, just as Saul needed Barnabas and the other apostles to embrace him, because living disruptive lives will often get lonely. And so, we will need God to empower us through the gift of our Christian friendships, the very community of disruption.
Here are some questions to consider: How is Christ disrupting your own life? For instance, how is he calling you to see the world differently, to relate to others more lovingly, and so forth? Consider whether your life itself is disruptive. Are people calling into question their own lives by your own Christian living? Why or why not? Who are the Christian friends you can turn to when things get lonely? What sort of support do you need from others?