I am reading today in Acts 9. Saul, who later became Paul, was a persecutor of Christians and a Pharisee of all Pharisees who thought what he was doing was the right thing to do. And one day he was on his way to Damascus to persecute even more Christians when the Lord Jesus visited him in what appears to me to be a vision of sorts. But Jesus spoke to him audibly.
“And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’” Acts 9:4-6 ESV
What is standing out to me right now from this passage of Scripture is how Jesus told him that he was persecuting the Lord when he persecuted the Lord’s servants. And I believe that is a profound message which is indicated in other passages, as well, such as in Matthew 25:31-46. For there Jesus said, via a parable, that however we treat the Lord’s servants, it is as though that is how we are treating him, whether for good or for evil. So, we need to give much thought and care to how we treat those who believe in Jesus and who serve him with their lives, for that is how we are treating Jesus.
Matthew 25:35-40 ESV
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Now, this is the ideal of how we should be treating our fellow Christians. And although we should treat all people with kindness, this is specifically referring to the Lord’s brothers and sisters in Christ who are also his servants and his friends who are living righteously and who are following him in obedience in doing as he commands (New Covenant). And the reference to those in prison, thus, is speaking of those who are in prison for their walks of faith in Jesus Christ and for their testimonies for the Lord.
Matthew 25:41-46 ESV
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Sadly, this is more often than not the way many professing Christians, even pastors, are treating those who are the Lord’s servants, i.e. those who are following the Lord in obedience, and who are saying and doing the kinds of things that Jesus and his NT apostles did and said. At least that is what I see happening in America. For many pastors and congregations of gatherings of what is called “church” are honestly being taught that those who are still teaching the truth of the gospel are to be ignored and opposed.
For what is largely being taught and accepted is a diluted half-truth gospel created in the minds of men in their deceitful scheming, and people are believing the lies by the hordes. But it isn’t just that they are believing and accepting the lies as truth, but they are rejecting the truth as though it is a lie, and so they are rejecting those who are teaching the truth as though they are liars and as people who are to be ignored and/or opposed. And so many true servants of the Lord are being rejected for doing what is right.
So, this story of Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion, in addition to this passage in Matthew 25, should serve as good reminders to us of how we are to treat our fellow Christians. For how we treat the beloved of God who are serving him with their lives is how we are treating Jesus Christ. And we should particularly be compassionate towards those who are being hated and persecuted for their walks of faith and obedience to the Lord, and who are being cast aside and unwanted because they are still speaking the truth.
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Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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