Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
One of the most amazing passages in the whole Bible is what happened to Saul the Pharisee on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-9, 22:6-16, 26:12-18). It’s a familiar story to many of us:
Saul had been an approving witness to the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen the deacon (Acts 7:58). He then set about hounding the followers of Jesus, seeking to have the imprisoned and put to death (Acts 8:1, 9:1-2). But on the road, a light shone from heaven, and a voice spoke to him; that voice was the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 9:3-4).
It’s an amazing story of a great opponent of God’s people being confronted with Jesus, and being transformed into a servant of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:15-16, see also Romans 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:5, Galatians 1:10, Ephesians 6:6, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1).
But there’s something else amazing in this story: what Jesus says to Saul. He speaks from heaven, calling, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).
When had Saul persecuted Jesus? Some say he might have heard the teacher from Nazareth, but we don’t know. When had Saul attacked Jesus? When had he arrested Jesus? When had he had Jesus bound and thrown into prison?
But Jesus says, “Why are you persecuting me?”
This is the staggering truth: what we do to Jesus’ followers, we do to Him.
Jesus teaches this Himself in Matthew 25. It is a scene of judgement. Some are condemned for failing to care for Jesus when He was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned. Others are commended for doing so. Both groups ask when this happened “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison” (Matthew 25:44, also v37-38).
The answer? “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40). That’s what Jesus said to Saul: How we treat other believers is how we treat Jesus.
John underlines this for us in his first letter:
“If anyone says, “I love God”, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 5:20, see also 2:3-6, 3:10-15, 18, 4:11).
So, how are we loving our brothers and sisters? Are do we love to gather together like a family should (Deuteronomy 4:10, Psalm 122:1, Acts 2:42, Hebrews 10:24-25, Revelation 1:10)? Do we put one another first (Philippians 2:1-18, Romans 12:10)? Do we live at peace with one another (Romans 12:16, Ephesians 4:2, James 4:11, 5:9, 1 Peter 5:5)? Do we forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13)? Do we speak the truth to one another (Colossians 3:16)? Do we encourage one another (Hebrews 3:12-13, 10:24)?
These are just a start of the questions we must ask as we seek to love one another. What is Jesus calling us to as we “Look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4)? Our priorities and interests in facilities and finances and forms of worship will all be challenged. Are we willing to listen, or will we ignore Jesus?
Yours in Christ’s service,