By John Helmberger, CEO Minnesota Family Council
Imagine that you’re a Christian living in Damascus, Syria, just a few short years after the birth of the church in Jerusalem following the Lord’s ascension.
You responded to the gospel after the Good News was carried to your city by believers fleeing the great persecution of the church that arose in Jerusalem only a year earlier, when the Jewish authorities there became alarmed by its rapid growth and widespread favor with the people.
You’ve also been sobered by the reports from Jerusalem about a man named Saul, from Tarsus, who “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison,” as recounted in the Book of Acts, Chapter 8.
Now, even more unsettling is the news that Saul, “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” has obtained letters giving him authority to travel to Damascus – your city – “so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem!” (Acts 9:1-2)
Well, having stepped into his shoes for a moment, perhaps you can understand the hesitation of a disciple in Damascus named Ananias when God gave him an unnerving assignment with this same Saul:
"And the Lord said to him, 'Rise and go...look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.'” (Acts 9:11-12)
“But, but, but..."
you can almost hear Ananias sputter.
"Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name!” (Acts 9:13-14)
But the Lord persisted:
“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)
And you know the rest of the story, how this Saul became Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and one of the giants of the Christian faith.
I couldn’t help thinking, as I recently reflected on this passage, of what Dr. Russell Moore expressed well in his book, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, which I highly recommend:
“The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynistic, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be managing an abortion clinic right now. The next Mother Teresa might be a heroin-addicted porn star right now...
“…That atheist on the highway in front of you, the one who just shot you an obscene gesture, he might be the one who evangelizes your grandchildren.”
And perhaps most importantly for culture warriors:
“Our public witness ought never to back down in confronting injustice... But we ought to always recognize that those we are arguing with, including sometimes the most vitriolic of our opponents, just may be our future brother and sister in Christ… We must fight for the culture, yes, but we should never be such culture warriors that we cannot be evangelists first.”
I think that’s part of what it means to “behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). And that’s what we’re committed to. Join us!
Source: Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, p. 214-216. On Amazon here.