3 During the journey, as he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?”
5 Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus, whom you are harassing,” came the reply. 6 “Now get up and enter the city. You will be told what you must do.”
7 Those traveling with him stood there speechless; they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 After they picked Saul up from the ground, he opened his eyes but he couldn’t see. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind and neither ate nor drank anything.
In the days before Paul became the foremost preacher of the gospel, he was Saul, the foremost persecutor of the Church. He presided at inquisitions and participated in stonings for those accused of following Jesus.
In this story from Acts, we hear the amazement of those who traveled with Paul. I’m sure their amazement only grew when they heard the content of his conversation with the risen Jesus, the One they’d been persecuting.
Over and over again, we are told that no one could believe this conversion. They were in awe of God’s work – in every sense of that word. Those who heard about it were at once surprised, thrilled, and fearful. We’re told it took some time for the Church to trust Paul, because he had literally made a name for himself by hunting down Christians. No wonder he needed a new one!
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says this: “They only heard a report about me: ‘The man who used to harass us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy.’ So they were glorifying God because of me.”
I’m certain that if you had asked Saul whether he’d consider converting to Christianity, he would have said, “absolutely not…under no circumstances… not on your life.” But the thing with God is, we can never say never. What if the thing you absolutely don’t want to do, the very thing you are most fearful of is exactly where God is leading you? What if the person you are ready to write off ends up being the person who comes through for you when you least expect it?
If the story of Saul-turned-Paul teaches us anything, it’s that never isn’t in Christ’s vocabulary. Maybe it doesn’t belong in ours either.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Who is it in your life that you feel ready to give up on? Who are you prepared to write off? Is it possible that just for today, you might entertain just enough hope to pray on it before taking that step? Remember, Paul was once Saul…
Prayer: God, when we despair of situations and people, when we feel ready to give up, remind us that in you, change is possible. Today, keep our eyes open to your possibilities. And help us learn to never say never. Amen.