This was originally written as a bulletin article back in August 2014 for Northside Church of Christ. I share it here because it relates to my previous post on “Being Wrong.”
Have you ever had to reevaluate a deeply held belief? Once in a while we are faced with the fact that there are some flaws in our current way of thinking. This is not something that is easy to deal with especially when it comes to our deeply held spiritual beliefs. In fact, many will resist facing facts in our spiritual beliefs more than any other area.
Let’s take Paul, for example. We are introduced to Saul (as he was called then) in Acts 8:1 immediately following the illegal stoning of a man named Stephen in chapter 7. It is here that we learn “Saul was there” (at Stephen’s death), “giving approval to his death.” Here is a story that really ought to shake us up a bit.
Saul was a man of the law. He studied it, memorized it, practiced it. He dotted every “i” and crossed every “t.” In his mind, there wasn’t the slightest chance he could have been wrong. Stephen, was also Jew and he knew the law too. In fact, chapter seven of Acts contains the summary of Stephen’s sermon where he goes to the Scripture as the basis for his message. The conclusion of the sermon was direct and even brutal. So was the response.
“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him.” 7:51-52
To Saul, Stephen’s words were not only wrong, they were heretical, and worthy of death. But not just Stephen, he also believed the church was wrong. Saul worked with complete sincerity and devotion to God to destroy the church that Jesus gave his life to create. Saul went from house to house and dragged men and women off to prison. There was no need of trial. I’m sure Saul had book, chapter, and verse to justify everything he did.
But, SAUL WAS WRONG!!! In chapter 9, the persecutor becomes the persecuted. In Saul’s mind, there was no way he could have been wrong. However, it is pretty hard to deal with being struck blind and being confronted directly by Jesus himself (Acts 9:5). It’s kind of hard to argue with that. We read about the conversion of Saul, and it may even come across as a little funny, but when it happens to us, it’s a different matter. Paul spent the rest of his life trying to persuade people, just like his former self, who were so convinced they were right that they ended up rejecting the true message of God.
Most will just blindly accept what they are taught. It is inconceivable that some of their traditional understandings of Scripture may not only be mistaken, but also harmful to the way God intends us to live. Why was Paul not able to get through to his own countrymen? Why wasn’t Jesus able to persuade the religious leaders of his day? Why do people have ears, but can’t hear, or eyes, but can’t see? The reason is simple: people can be so convinced that they already know that they can’t learn anything new.
Sometimes a humble approach to scripture with a willingness to learn can make a big difference. Sometimes people need to open their eyes to see what is obvious to others. Perhaps we need to make sure we are not stiff-necked people who resist the guidance of the Holy Spirit.