“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.” (John 16:2,3)
Saul of Tarsus did not know himself. He thought he was doing God service by hunting down followers of Jesus. In his mind he was on the side of the “good guys.” His crusade was necessary to stamp out this heretical new sect that was threatening the historic faith of his fathers.
But what did the Lord see when He looked at Saul? A zealous, but deceived young man, who was actually persecuting the very Truth he thought he was defending. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4)
Jesus had mercy on Saul because of his ignorance. “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” (1 Tim. 1:13) Ignorance and arrogance are a repulsive mix. We are not naturally disposed to have mercy on those who know so little, but think they know so much. But Saul certainly received mercy, not only from Jesus Himself, but from His body. Even when being martyred by the cruel Pharisee, Stephen prayed for mercy to be granted: “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:60)
God help us to look beyond the present ugliness of the smugly self-righteous. God help us to bear their false charges without crying out for vengeance. May we remember that it is only through God’s great mercies that each Saul can become a Paul .