Why can’t we see Christ?
We are all brought up with a particular belief, even when we think we hold no belief at all. If claiming to be atheists, we still believe that we don't believe.
When children, we form our most strongly held opinions based on our greatest influence — most likely our parents or step-parents. Political parties would not survive if not for the opinion of parents being passed down to the next generation. In fact, parents rarely realise the measure of the imprint they leave. It is during this baton-passing that God expects us to teach our children and grandchildren specific things of God's history. If we don't read those events ourselves we still pass down a story, but it's not his-story.
When parents are steeped in a cult-ural system, the children grow up innocently believing it also. Even our religious wars are passed down to us by someone of influence. When we acknowledge that handover, Christians can put down their religious weapons and beat them into ploughshares (Isaiah 2:4). We can stop blaming other religions for the woes of the world and place the focus back onto Satan. We begin praying harder instead of hating people.
As children, our minds are not only ripe to be influenced, but they have been created for that purpose — to be gently persuaded with the right seed from an early age. When young, our hearts are fertile soil and seeds grow easily, for good or not so good, depending on the seed that's been sown. That is why Christ tells us to keep a heart like a child, fertile.
Saul, later to become the Apostle Paul, and not to be mistaken for King Saul, Israel’s first king, had this same problem. Saul was heavily influenced by his father. Acts 23:6 says, "But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee,the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question."
Saul was reared a Pharisee by his Pharisee father. He was raised to be passionate about his cult. His father passed down that passion to his son, which is what fathers are meant to do. But, before that, they are meant to search the scriptures for the truth themselves without their blinkers on and follow the truth.
What was the difference between Saul and Christ’s disciples Andrew and Peter?
They would have been a similar age, but Andrew and Peter found the gospel peacefully while Paul hated it vehemently.
Why the contrast? Were they not all passionate?
Andrew and Peter were passionate about the truth, while Saul was passionate for his 'party's' version of the truth. This is why he couldn't see Christ or his disciples in the right light. It’s like a Muslim, Sikh or Buddhist trying to confess Christ is King. In all belief, they simply cannot do it at the time, as they are stuck in what they have been taught.
Many Christians would have tried to convince Saul as they were being slaughtered, imprisoned or beaten by him. However, Saul's passion for his party wouldn't let the words, weeping or pleas enter his heart.
Even at the stoning of Stephen, at which he was present, he would not and could not be convinced. (Acts 22:19-20).
This stonewall position left Christ no other option but to follow Proverbs 26:3-5 to steer him in the right direction. "A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass,and a rod for the fool's back."
Saul was engulfed in his party's policies. As far as he was concerned, he was reared a Pharisee, he was passionate about it, and brutally challenged all who opposed it because he thought it was right. Saul was blind to anything other than his party's belief. For much of his life his heart had been hardened to anything else, yet, he was still found to be wrong.
Saul was putting the rod across the backs of Christians due to his own blind belief, so likewise, we find Christ putting a rod across Saul's back. Saul was made blind on the road to Damascus.
Christ had to blind him to make him see.
Acts 9:3-6“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."
Saul wasn’t trembling one second before being blinded. Neither was he trembling when beating and killing Christ’s flock. He was forthright and committed to his party’s mandate. In his blind commitment all Saul understood was a rod across his back in the form of blindness. Zacharias the priest was struck mute for nine months. I was thrown into prison for ten months. God is not beyond dealing harshly when he needs to.
What about your heart? Is it soft and malleable like Andrew and Peter's, or do you need a rod across your back to follow Christ? Saul, thinking he was following his Saviour, was, in essence, trying to lock him out of his own kingdom.
Don't lock Jesus out of your life. He has so many spiritual wonders he wishes to show you, and so many experiences to take you through as he brings you to the glorious destination of his Kingdom.
Today’s prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for taking the measures you did to convert Saul. It mustn’t have been pleasant for him at the time, but I can see where I have been just as stubborn. Please help me today to soften my heart. Your Holy Spirit takes the path of least resistance, so please keep gently reminding me not to dam up my heart so your word can flow freely into it.