But Saul began to destroy the church.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened.Acts 9:31
Do you know what happened between the first scripture and the second? Jesus happened. On the road to Damascus, Jesus spoke to Saul and brought about a complete reversal in that man’s life. Once Saul stopped persecuting the church, he became its most vocal supporter.
Who’da thunk it?
My denomination, the United Methodist Church, is going through its own time of struggle. Some churches have voted to disaffiliate from the denomination. The primary issue has to do with human sexuality, but there are other issues, such as owning property and the desire to be independent, that are fueling this tumultuous time.
This is nothing new in the Protestant church. The church has been splitting and reforming, creating new denominations and charting new courses ever since Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door.
But, my Lord, this is a painful process.
Many churches have decided not to take a vote on disaffiliation, but for some that do, the pain of division has threatened to destroy that church. There has been abuse and false accusation. Brother and sister in Christ have been pitted against one another. The previous church I served is going through such a crisis right now, with a vote coming next week.
Regardless of the outcome, this church, and many others, will never be the same.
It wrenches my heart to see people who once greeted each other with a friendly handshake or even a hug on a Sunday morning now acting with suspicious hearts and lots and lots of anger. Saul was an outsider, persecuting the new Christians, but today committed believers in Christ are acting in ways that threaten to destroy the church–and each other– no less than Saul did.
When Saul encounters Jesus on that dusty road, he is forced to reconsider his life and how he chooses to live it. He gives up the hate in his heart and the persecution of his actions and turns to embrace a savior who has big things in store for him. And, miraculously, good things come of such a terrible situation.
We are all on the road to Damascus, and Jesus has a word for all of us. Jesus has a desire to see the scales fall from our eyes so that we can see with clearer vision, so that we can know the mission, so that we can be pure in heart with our words and actions.
On the road to Damascus, Saul had a “come to Jesus” moment, and it changed everything. My hope is that we regain our focus on “this affiliation”, the one that calls us into service and discipleship, and great love for our brothers and sisters, even as we discern together.
To those churches who have been broken, I offer my sincere prayers for you. The Church is made up of people, and people are only human, but Jesus is calling us to a life of spirit-filled holiness. Remember that the Church has its Pauls, and Sauls, and everyone in between. Jesus asks us to look into the brilliance of his love and let that shine our way forward.
I believe there are good days ahead for the followers of Christ.
May we all come to see the light.
Have a good week,