The Great Turnaround

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 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.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Acts 9:1-9.

It doesn’t usually happen this way, but it’s good to know that it can. And it might happen more often if we obeyed Christ’s commands to love our enemies and to pray for them. He did not tell us that to make us more pious, but to bring the power of God on our persecutors for their good. And that is what happened to Saul, who would go from venomous persecutor of the church to one of the central figures of world history, and writer of a large portion of the New Testament, which would transform whole nations. We now know him as the Apostle Paul.

Our nation is not lacking for villains at this time. In fact, the villains are in charge. Rather than merely lamenting their foul deeds, we must intercede on their behalf, making war with the demonic forces that oppress them. As Paul would later write, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

It’s not enough to criticize and complain about the wicked. We must win them to Christ, and that will require the hard work of prayer, after we get our own hearts right.