Paul’s conversion story (Acts 9:1-19) is one of my very favorites, and one that I could spend hours mining for Biblical wisdom, insights, and inspiration.
Today I was particularly drawn to Ananias’s role in the story. Following Saul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, which left him blind, the Lord appeared to Ananias, instructing him to go to Saul and lay hands on him, so that he could regain his sight. Saul was a good and faithful Jew, whose reputation preceded him, and Ananias knew that this was the man who had come to Damascus to persecute the Christians, having authority to imprison any Christians he found there. Acts 9:1 says that Saul had been “breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord.”
Acts 9:17 tells us, “So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.”
As I look at Ananias, his obedience, his bravery, and his trust in God are what first strike me. When I look at the words he spoke to Saul, I am awed to see him call the man “brother.” Here, he is speaking to the man who supported the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr, by holding the coats of those who threw the stones. A man who only recently was “trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, [and handing] them over for imprisonment.” (Acts 8:3) Yet, Ananias touches the man, and calls him brother.
What openness! What forgiveness!
In our own Christian world, we experience persecution ourselves, both by our own Christian brothers and sisters, and by non-Christians. Can we love those who persecute us? Can we call them “brother“?