“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Acts 26:14b-15
I assume you’ve assembled something at some point in your life. Presents for the kiddies on Christmas Eve. Maybe one of those do-it-yourself kits for fiber-board furniture with all of the weird hardware you’ve never seen before. After spending an hour or more, you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes! Just a few more… Wait. What’s that piece on the floor over there? Is that the shelf that is supposed to go…there? Thirteen lucky steps ago?
Aw, son of a…!
You’ve just doubled your assembly time, with every minute up to this point discovered to be a complete waste of time. Because you goofed up. It’s your fault.
When I saw the TV mini-series The Bible, I loved the portrayal of Paul. He was humble, haunted, afraid of what reception he’d get when he showed up. He was the exact opposite of his previous identity as Saul, persecuting Christians, condemning them to death, even holding everyone’s coats as they stoned Stephen to death.
One day he’s riding along, heading toward another mission of Christian killing, when he gets blinded by a bright light and knocked on his keester. A voice asks him what he thinks he’s doing. He asks who’s there.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Aw, son of a…
The exquisitely damning irony of the moment will torture his conscience for the rest of his life. This is the guy who claimed the title “Chief of Sinners.” He wrote the somewhat dizzying soliloquy in Romans, talking about doing what he doesn’t want to do, but not doing what he wishes.
Paul was the most devout of the devout, a Pharisee of Pharisees, educated by one of the greatest Jewish minds of the era. If anybody knew the scriptures, it was Paul. He spent his entire life to that point doing his best to observe Jewish Law and customs. He lived what he at least thought was his faith. He was currently working his hardest at it when he’s blown off his horse.
“5 They knew me from the first…that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” Acts 26:5
Wait. What’s that piece on the road over there? Oh. That’s me finding out I’ve wasted my life. That’s me missing the Christ! I could’ve talked with Him! I could’ve been a disciple! I could’ve eaten with him! And to top it all off, I aligned myself against HIM!
Remember that feeling of absolute frustration to find out that, while you were confidently assembling that cool corner desk for your home office, you were really screwing it up? Remember that feeling of being inescapably trapped in a waste of time by your own hand? Well, take that desk, and expand that horrible revelation to your ENTIRE LIFE!!!
No wonder he considered himself the Chief of Sinners. No wonder the tortured cries of frustration as he recounts the things he does not want to do but does! No wonder he drove himself mercilessly for the Gospel’s sake, suffering horribly on multiple occasions, visiting death’s door over and over.
This was someone who studied the scriptures extensively. He still muffed it. What about us? Do you read your bible daily? OK, let’s try weekly. No? Surely monthly? And no counting Sundays or bible class. What? You don’t go to bible class between services? Um.
If the previous paragraph hit too close to home, I’m sure you don’t know the scriptures as well as Paul. I read almost daily, using a devotional called Portals of Prayer from Concordia Publishing House. I’ve been doing that since the early 80’s, but I still miss days for whatever reason. And I’m most certainly no St. Paul. We all need to study God’s word. We need to figure out what pieces we’ve neglected in building our lives.
I’m not a trained, ordained minister, but one thing I’ve figured out. We’re all better off with that “Aw” moment happening in this lifetime and not as we get turned aside from God’s throne.
I implore you – read your bible daily. Use a devotional or study guide. Go to church and discuss the bible with others. Pray daily. Get your communication line with God heated up. If you don’t, you might well find yourself being shown the way to hell, screaming a terrified…
“Aw! Son of a…!!!!”