We're seeing that very same scenario played out today in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. Men, who are so zealous about their faith that they think they are doing their god a favor by putting to death men, women and children who follow the Christian faith.
Our response - kill them - kill them all - is the cry on many hearts today, but if that cry had been the same back in Saul's day and if Saul had been killed for his atrocities, we wouldn't have several books of the Bible, penned by the Apostle Paul as Saul became known after his conversion.
How did his conversion happen? It went like this...
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength." Acts 9:1-19
As we hear about the atrocities taking place in the Middle East today, about children being beheaded, Christians forced to renounce their faith or die. Forced to leave their homeland on foot across the hot desert, forced to flee into the mountains where they are starving to death, the first inclination of our hearts is to wipe out those evil men who are committing such crimes, but there is a better way.
We can pray - earnestly, forcefully, on our faces for God to save the very people who are doing these horrible things. That God will stop them in their tracks, just as He did with Saul and bring them face to face with Himself. Not just to save them, but convert them so completely that they will give themselves to serve Him and spread the Gospel through out the Muslim world for the rest of their lives.
God can do that. God would prefer to do that, rather than slay them, sending them to Hell. He loves his creation and His plan has always been to bring man to Himself through Jesus' death on the cross. Satan's plan is to destroy every man, woman and child before they can receive Christ and in the event that they do receive Christ, then his rage is heightened as he influences evil men to carry out his evil vendetta against God by destroying his children.
One of the hardest, yet most God-honoring thing we could do at this point is pray - pray for the safety and deliverance of those who are under such great persecution and pray for those who are perpetrating this evil to be stopped in their tracks by the Lord God Almighty and brought to their knees in repentance and conversion.
This is how I will pray.
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