When [Saul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. – Acts 9:26
Yesterday I told you that Saul – soon to be the Apostle Paul — had been a violent and virulent tormentor of the fledgling Christian Church. He was leading persecutions, even executions. But along the road to Damascus, Jesus knocked Saul down with a bright vision, a personal encounter, and a transformative call to ministry.
That was all going on inside Saul.
Outside of Saul, however, the members of the Early Church were still “afraid” of Paul. Indeed, when he showed up in Jerusalem the first time, they didn’t trust him. As it says in Scripture, “they did not believe he was a disciple.”
If you were Saul, how would you prove that change of heart? Words are nice. “Trust me, guys.” But words are also cheap. If you’ve been harsh before, a liar before, untrustworthy before, you could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing now. So, if we want to be trusted, we may need more words.
Two things changed the Early Church’s heart toward Saul.
- The first was a character witness, in this case Barnabas. The Christians in Jerusalem were ready to reject Saul, “27 but Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and [told them the story of Saul’s change of heart. He] described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.” Meaning, if you’ve been untrustworthy in the past and you want me to accept you now, you better have a character witness who can testify to the validity of the change within you.
- And yet, most of us are still going to be a little suspicious, aren’t we? We’ll give you just a little rope. Just enough to hang yourself if you’re insincere, right? And so words aren’t enough, you’re going to need to back up your words with actions. And in this case, Saul did. Scripture says, “28 He went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him.” After they tried to kill Saul for the third or fourth time, the Early Christians began to say, “I guess he really is sincere.”
Our character is our most valuable characteristic. We can lose our reputation. People can lose trust in us. Nevertheless, it can be built back. And Saul shows us how. God is the Father of forgiveness. And we as Christians should be both wise and forgiving. Trust but verify.
In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’d prefer
an ounce of prevention
to a pound of cure
when it comes to