By Pastor David M. Choi
In the book of Acts, Saul appears on the scene in chapter eight. Saul is a zealous teacher of the law, who exercises his power and authority to kill Christians in the name of the law. For he sees them as a danger to Israel and as betrayers of the faith.
On his way to Damascus, then, something unexpected and extraordinary happens. The Lord Christ Jesus encounters Saul, as a “light from heaven shone around him.” Falling to the ground, he hears the Lord asking him, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul said, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Yet, he isn’t just given instructions. He is also blinded in the event of his encounter with Christ, in which he receives a vision of a man named Ananias who would later restore his sight.
In the meantime, the Lord appears to Ananias himself, telling him that he is to go to where Saul of Tarsus is. Hearing this command, Ananias responds that this man is a killer. He did much harm in Jerusalem and still possesses the authority to kill and harm. Yet, God sees what Ananias can’t see. Though Saul is a killer now, his fate is not determined by his past. Rather, Saul is determined by the grace through which God is now claiming Saul for himself. God sees that this is Saul’s future: he is a chosen instrument of Christ, and he will suffer for Christ’s name. And now, he grants to Ananias this vision so that he might see what God sees.
In remarkable obedience, Ananias does as the Lord commands. He goes to the killer, Saul, and, in faith, he touches him. What he believes to be true of Saul is certainly not negated, namely, that he is a dangerous person. But because he now sees what God sees, he sees that Saul is also redeemed.
Here, we see the Lord interweaving the destinies of killers and disciples. Sin becomes engulfed by God’s overwhelming grace, as those who are sent embrace the sinner. The other thing we see is the shape of Ananias’ compassion. Saul receives the Spirit, because the Lord sent Ananias to lay his hands on him, preach the good news, and to baptize him in the name of Christ. And he did all this because the Spirit opened his eyes to see that Saul, too, was a man Christ had died for. The killer is now called ‘brother.’
Who are the killers, or the dangerous persons, in our lives? Surely, there are people in our lives we don’t bother reaching out to, sharing the good news of Christ with, because we believe they are beyond hope and/or because they somehow pose a threat to us. Yet, Christ is calling us to be like Ananias. However true our perceptions of others may be, and indeed however much they may stand as a threat to our lives, nonetheless, will we see and approach them as those Christ also died for? Will you define people by their sins, or will you define people by God’s greater love for them?
At the end of the day, what prompts us to speak of Christ and to embody him for others is not because we view them as sinners. Rather, first and foremost, it is because to them the Spirit of Christ reaches out. In step with the Spirit, Ananias was willing to reach out. Are you?