This is an excerpt of Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa (Acts 26):
“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.”
Earlier in Acts (8:1-3) we are told by Luke that during the murder of Stephen that “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death…Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
The picture that Paul paints of himself before Agrippa shows us that he did not only cast his vote against Stephen, but that there were others who Paul voted for death. How many? We don’t know. Did Paul know? Did he keep count? Could he see their faces? Could he hear their cries decades later?
Paul uses the word “enraged” twice in Acts 26 to describe himself – what did it look like when he “tried to force them to blaspheme”? Threats? Torture?
Saul the pursuer would become Paul the pursued. The Saul who put others to death would become the Paul who gave himself so that others might have life. The Saul who tried to force others to blaspheme the name of Jesus would be the Paul who gave his life for Jesus. The Saul who sentenced others to death would become the Paul who would suffer for Jesus Christ to the point where he felt as if he were living under a sentence of death (2 Corinthians 1:9).
But what about me? But what about you? But what about us? How do we vote? Do we vote for or against others? Christ died for all – do we live for all? Do we desire life for all, or only for those who are like us, who agree with us, who are beneficial to us?
Jesus says, “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous…Therefore, you are to be perfect (mature), as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [Matthew 5:43ff].
If Christians are to be polarized, let us be polarized away from evil and vitriol, away from the ways of this age, away from hatred and animosity; and cling to the love and grace and truth of Jesus Christ. Let us not be enraged with the spirit of this hateful age, but engaged in the grace and love of Jesus Christ toward others, both within and without the Kingdom of God.
Paul knew what he had once been. What about us? Are we what Saul was, or are we what Paul was? Do we vote for death in the lives of others; or do our lives, the way we live, the way we speak, the way we pray – vote for life for others? Are we living for Jesus Christ and others, or are we living for ourselves?
Are we religious types who will justify ourselves at the expense of others? Or do we know what Paul knew, that outside of Jesus Christ we are toxic and capable of anything and everything that is wicked and foul? Where is the rage in much of the professing church in America coming from? It is not from God.
Are we casting our votes for others or against others?
Our voting record is recorded day after day; word after word; action after action. On that Great Day when we stand before our Lord to give an account of our lives the words “conservative, liberal, left, right, progressive” will mean nothing – our votes along those party lines will mean nothing. But our votes for life, for others, for Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) – those votes will mean everything (1 Corinthians 3:1 – 23).
How will I vote with my life today? What about you?