This week in Bible study, we were talking about the Apostle Paul.
We were reading out of the first chapter of Galatians. As we were reading this chapter out loud, we got to verses 13 & 14:
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
“I sometimes forget how horrible Paul was before his encounter with God,” a woman from my group said. “He did awful things to Christians.”
“And all the while he thought he was in the right- he was zealous in his religion,” another person said.
Their statements got me thinking about some of the most prevalent, modern-day persecutors of Christians: Muslim Extremists.
Some of these individuals do unspeakable things to Christians- whether they are members of an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria in Nigeria, attacking churches nearly every Sunday or if they are members of an Islamic government, threatening to put Christians to death if they refuse to recant their faith.
It’s difficult to see people do such evil things to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And if we are honest with ourselves, it is difficult not to hold resentment towards these individuals and to dwell on the evil things that they do.
But on Tuesday, it dawned on me- these extremists are just like Saul.
They are zealous in their beliefs, they think that they are being righteous and pleasing God when they persecute Christians.
And just like Paul, they can have an encounter with God. There have been multiple stories of former Muslim Extremists having an encounter with Jesus and turning to Him as a result.
In Matthew 5:44, Christ tell us to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you. It is vital that we pray for these individuals- that they would have a ‘Saul to Paul’ conversion. Additionally, we need to show Christ’s love to them- both in the way we talk to them and about them.
So what does Christ’s command in Matthew 5:44 look like in today’s world? Is it possible to do this? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.