Speaking to the Soul – September 22

A reading and a reflection

Acts 8: 1 – 3

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

“And Saul approved…” Damning words. A fierce indictment of character and actions.

As one of our Communion prayers helps us remember, Jesus was born in a time when there was little peace. This time of persecution that began in Jerusalem and spread across the land shows some of the depth and breath of that troubled time, not just for the early Church but for all of the inhabitants.

That anyone should approve of such brutality is something I really struggle to understand, however threatening the person or the movement might be to my culture or theology or anything else.
Thanks be to God that even people who “approve of [the] killing” are not beyond God’s love or reach. Thanks be to God that even after his zealous and urgent persecution of those first Christians, Saul was not beyond redemption.

This gives me hope for aggressors in our time, whether national leaders, or on a more local, intimate level. Even they can be changed and called to a new way of living.

Could you take time today to examine yourself and see where you need to change and move closer to a life of peace-making? Could you spend a few minutes researching where the Church is being persecuted now, and pray for them and for their persecutors?

Holy God, You call us to a life of peace-making; You hate injustice.

By Your Holy Spirit, show us where we are falling short of Your standards; strengthen us to correct those failings.

We pray for Your Church undergoing persecution. Keep them safe, strengthen their faith, that they might overcome the attacks they face. Change the hearts of those approving of killing, oppression and marginalisation.

For the sake of Jesus, Head over the Church. Amen.