April 21, 2010
Our Bible is packed full with people who play only minor parts in the larger story that the collection of books is assembled to tell. For every one hero in the faith there is an untold multitude of others whose names we will never know; ones for whom history has only a passing point of reference.
Acts 9:1-20 tells the beginning of the story of the famed apostle Paul’s new life. This is probably the most well-known conversion story of all conversion stories ever told. Tucked down in the middle of it, Luke makes mention of an unnumbered group of men who were witnesses to the miraculous event. These men heard the voice of the Lord Jesus but saw nothing themselves. After leading the once-vibrant Saul to Damascus, the Bible never mentions them again.
What happened to these unknown soldiers of virtue who were out to do in the rapidly expanding Church? No one ever bothered to write it down.
We can presume that these fellows were following the path up from Jerusalem with Saul not simply to stand by and watch one man wreak havoc in the Christian people’s lives. They were likely going along so that they could have a hand in carrying out the high priest’s orders to purge the synagogues in Damascus of all those infidels who dared to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Messiah of God. These were not simply stagehands. These were men on a mission with intent to do harm.
But what happened to them after the light got into Saul’s eyes?
Maybe they went back to their old ways and slipped into the most familiar patterns of living life that they had come to know. That is, after all, what most of us wind up doing when there is an unexpected turn of events and a sudden something that throws us off our planned course of travel. We seek a return to normalcy and familiarity as quickly as possible. Maybe each and every one of them went back to the same old, same old. Maybe they found some other person intent on preserving the fundamentals of the faith no matter the cost, even if it cost people their lives.
Or maybe some of them – even one of them – got hungry for a different way of doing life. Was there something more than the same old ways of zealously warding off every perceived threat to the status quo that they encountered?
There is no way of knowing about those things, of course. But there is always the invitation inherent in the pages of scripture to take stock of our own lives in light of the lives of those whose stories we encounter, whether they be bit players or leading actors.
When we see someone whose life is changed, made different and more purposeful and focused and energized than ever before, does it not make us a little bit hungry? Does it not set us off in search of something akin to whatever it is that feeds the soul and nourishes the spirit of the one made new?
Maybe some of those men along with Saul that day had that kind of experience. Maybe some of us, upon being reminded of the young firebrand’s fall from his proverbial high horse to a humble place of service, might feel something like a hunger pang in our own souls, too.
Peace to you,
FBC Danville, VA