“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). Christ gave the command, and greeting Saul in Acts 9, Ananias provided the example, calling his persecutor his brother.
Saul – soon to be Paul – had encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, and was blinded after seeing the bright light of Christ. As Saul made his way toward the town, Our Lord appeared to Ananias, instructing him to go to Saul and lay hands on him, so that he could regain his sight.
Now, Saul had been “breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord.” His reputation preceded him, and Ananias knew that this man had come to Damascus with authority to imprison any Christians he found there. He said as much to Jesus, but the Lord insisted: “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and to their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)
Obediently, Ananias went. Approaching this man who had the authority to throw him in jail, the man who had supported the men who threw the stones that martyred St. Stephen, Ananias laid his hands on him and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me…” (Acts 9:17)
Ananias isn’t someone we hear about often, but his example is well worth meditation. He obeys Jesus’ every command.
Jesus said, “go” and he went.
Christ taught, “forgive” and he forgave.
Our Lord urged, “Pray for those who persecute you,” and Ananias laid his hands on Saul’s head.
Love Incarnate instructed, “Love your enemy” and the Damascene called Saul brother.
The result? A new Christian. The scales causing his blindness fell away, Saul was baptized, and “at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)
A few thoughts to ponder:
What might the implications be if I were to go, forgive, pray, and love my enemy as my brother? How might one life be changed? How might the world be changed?
Going Deeper… who in my life have I failed to forgive? A former friend, a family member, an in-law? A teacher, an employer, a politician?
What are my feelings toward those who actively persecute the Church and my fellow Christians? Do I pray for them? Do I actively ask that they would know Christ’s love?
Forgiving: The Way of Christ
Holding grudges is the way of the world; forgiving is the way of Christ.
Forgiving isn’t easy, but rather an act of the will.
Sometimes, a person has wronged us so deeply, or the wounds are so fresh, it’s hard to even want to forgive them. That “act of the will” is impossible to accomplish where the “will” doesn’t exist.
In those instances, we pray for the desire to forgive. God will honor the desire to have the desire, and He will plant it in our hearts. We can nurture that seed with prayer, and eventually receive the grace to forgive.
My Persecutor, My Brother
Those who persecute Christ’s Church don’t merely persecute His people, they persecute Christ himself, as witnessed in His words, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) He didn’t say “my people,” He said “me.”
And yet, Christ longs for every soul on this earth to be united with him. That’s why he came not just for the Jewish people, but for the Gentiles, as well. That’s why he chose Saul as an “instrument to proclaim [His] name to the Gentiles.” Jesus wants each and every one of us to know His love. When we pray for our persecutors, and for those who persecute Christians in general, as if they were our own brothers, we support Christ in His mission to recover each and every one of his lost sheep, by uniting our hearts with His in honor of His love for us all.
Loving Our Enemies
Hatred, in and of itself, does not kill. The person consumed by hatred does. But hatred will kill the hater much more surely than the hated.
We’ve heard it many times. It’s one of the most often repeated verses of the Bible – “Love your enemies.” But somehow we seem to draw a line. We love some enemies, but not all of them.
Did Christ mean to say, love some of your enemies, or most of your enemies?
How do we love our enemies? In particular, the ones who would like to see us all dead? Love doesn’t mean letting them walk all over us. Not at all.
But it does mean wanting the best for them, and praying for the best for them.
And the best is to know Christ’s love.
Ananias knew this. His obedience, his forgiveness, and his love helped bring about another Christian.
May our obedience, forgiveness, and love bear similar, abundant fruit.