One Of The Most Violent Religious Extremists Actually Lived 2,000 Years Ago….
Saul the Zealot was a religious extremist, bent on killing every Christian he encountered, so he could eradicate Christianity from the earth. But then, the unbelievable happened…. He had an encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus in Syria. Jesus asked “Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul was blinded and knew he had encountered the one true God. He dedicated his life to serve Jesus, and his name was forever changed to Paul. It is pretty amazing to think that one of the most influential Christian leaders in history was one of the most violent religious extremists. Yet Paul encountered Christ, and then dedicated his life to serving Him and spreading the gospel message. When we see the religious extremists of our time in the news, what is our first reaction? Is it to say how evil they are? Is it to note how evil our world is getting? Or is it to pray that these extremists come to Christ? Paul was not the only example of a religious extremist becoming a follower of Christ. It is still happening today…. in fact it is still happening in Damascus! A few church leaders have chosen to stay in Syria despite the enormous risks. Almost every day these leaders will open up their church to provide a meal, clothing and an opportunity to share the gospel. One day, as these leaders were serving their fellow countrymen, a Muslim extremist came up to the church screaming threatening and fanatical religious statements. The leaders were fearful that this man would attack them, and so they decided to pray. When they finished praying, they sensed that God was telling them to invite him inside. They sat him near the door and kept an eye on him to make sure he wouldn’t do anything during the meal and sermon. The man listened to the message attentively, and at the end, dedicated his life to Christ! If our brothers and sisters in Christ can risk their lives to share the gospel with religious extremists like this, the least we can do is pray for these people, rather than write them off as ‘evil’ and think that they are beyond hope. God has changed the hearts of zealots, leaders, movements and entire nations. He has and can do the same today! As you pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in places like Syria, please join with us in praying for their persecutors… that God would have an encounter with each of them, just as He did with Paul on the road to Damascus.