Continuing on with God's tender mercies and the story of Saul/Paul we saw how he had begun by vengefully hunting down the followers of the Christ only to do a 180' about face after talking with the Master himself. This was such a total change of thought for Saul that he was actually overcome with blindness and had to be led to Damascus. Instead of going to the High Priest in the synogogue for letters of authority to arrest Christians, Saul is forced to sit in a unfamiliar home surrounded by strangers where his reputation has preceded him.
God speaks to Ananias, the leader of the Christians. Jesus had often spoken about a new way to act, loving one's neighbor as one's self. He also taught about forgiveness and the need to love your enemies. In one of the Beatitudes we are told that we will be blessed if we love those who persecute us. Now Ananias will be given an opportunity to prove what the life of a Christian is all about and Ananias is being asked to lead by example. God tells him to go to Saul and heal him of his blindness. Ananias argues with God. Heal the very person who has vowed to hunt down men and women and send them to Rome in chains! He is told to go his way for God has chosen Saul for some very special work. He will bring Christianity to the Gentiles, speak before kings, and work with the children of Israel. What an amazing career awaits him.
Meanwhile Saul sits in darkness, pondering his meeting with Jesus, He must have realized the enormity of his mistakes and the innocent people he had condemned, including Stephen. He also must have wondered just what it was he would be told to do. Will he be arrested and exectured himself? Ananias arrives and puts his hands on his shoulders in friendship and forgiveness, calling him Brother. He tells him that the same Jesus that appeared to him on the way to Damascus had spoken to Ananias, sending him to Saul to heal the blindness so that he can be filled with the Holy Ghost. Immediately, the blindness is healed. The account in Acts, written by Luke the physician, describes it as 'scales' that fell from his eyes.
Saul in then baptized. His new life is about to begin. A whole new direction lies before him and he will have to win over the very people he had come to destroy. But this section of the lesson spoke to me more about Ananias and his own change of heart. I love his human reaction, arguing with God as if God was not aware of who Saul was and what he had been doing. How often do we quesiton God about some situation (or person)? Surely, He does not expect us to love this thing or this person. Surely He does not expect us to work side by side with them in harmony. Good heavens, not that guy (or gal)! And yet, that is exactly what he is being asked to do because God has a special purpose for Saul and God's wisdom is not to be questioned.
The command, love one another, is not to be taken lightly. When John wrote that he meant it. When Jesus preached about that he expected us to follow his example. We are to believe the first two words of his prayer...Our Father. That includes all mankind. That includes the person you don't care for. If we can't love someone we can see, how can we expect to love God who we can't see. This kind of love is divine Love being reflected by His children, those made in His own image and likeness. If we claim that to be who we are, we have to be willing to be that reflection, without exceptions. We are to do the works Jesus did and that means healing. How can you heal if you allow hatred or mistrust or resentment to stay in your heart and your thinking? Which is more important to you? Would you rather hate or heal?
Mrs. Eddy writes: "Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way. Who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?" Don't hinder yourself! Love because that is your true nature and purpose. Even those who don't like. Especially those you don't like.
There's much more to Saul/Paul's story this week. Next he must begin his ministry by winning over those he persecuted right there in Damascus. He will have to rely on God's tender mercies and loving kindnesses. So can we.