“But Saul, still breathing threats of slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, that if he found any men or women belonging to this Way (a word used for Christianity), he might bring them in bonds to Jerusalem. And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew near to Damascus, when suddenly a light from heaven shone round about him; and falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” And he said, “Who art thou Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom thou art persecuting.” Acts 9:1-5,
So, here I am again. Still wondering what it might be like if God were to initiate a conversation with me like He used to with prophets. Still thinking, if He were ever to do such a thing, He might begin by asking a question. And waiting for my answer. And here is the troubling question I’ve imagined He might raise: “Why are you persecuting me?”
Please don’t think I get bogged down and tend to run too long in one place (I never was a “speed merchant” and one of my old football buddies once told me that was my problem.). Try to look at it (this question) from another point of view: I suspect we’re more likely to run lightly over some really tough terrain. Rather than spending too much time, thinking too deeply about important issues, most of us glance across the surface. We rarely take time to think deeply, carefully about many things. That would require work, time and effort and sometimes causes discomfort.
That is especially true of a question like the one Paul was forced to face.
I’m pretty sure Saul didn’t have an answer ready immediately. It took him a while to recover from his blindness, and I’m sure while he was recovering in Damascus he gave careful thought. At any rate, when he re-emerged with a new name, he also had a new nature. Transformed from opponent to proponent, he became one of the most brilliant and effective theologian/evangelists in Church history. From misguided arrogant ignorance, he stands for all time as an example of humble, brilliant effectiveness in Christian thought and evangelism.
Like Paul must have done, I struggle to find an answer. In an instance such as this, I also could not help recalling the day Jesus was crucified. As the storm clouds gathered, and a maddened crowd vomited venom and screamed obscenities and hurled epithets, at the vulnerable, defenseless victim of their collective insanity, Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.”
What!? They don’t know what they’re doing? It seems to me they know EXACTLY what they’re doing It looks to me as if their eyes are wide open, their hearts full of hatred, and their minds working diabolically and deliberately. With careful, methodical, ruthless cruelty it looked like a killing machine was working with the precision of consummate evil genius. And yet, Jesus told His Father: “They don’t have a clue. They don’t really understand what they’re doing, and to whom they’re doing it. They’re out of control. They don’t even know why they’re acting so irrationally. Please forgive them, Father. Please don’t lay this sin to their charge. Please don’t grant their request for my blood to be upon them. . . nor their children. Father, I ask you to forgive them.”
You know, I’ve been thinking about this for some time. The things I’ve done or said. Or the things I’ve left undone and unsaid. For the pain I may have inadvertently inflicted upon Him who loves me most, I’ve found myself again at the throne of mercy, asking for grace and forgiveness. My only defense has been ignorance. My only hope is mercy, and I pray:
“Father, forgive me, when I know not what I do.”
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student ~donkimrey