“Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1)
When we read this sentence: “Saul was consenting to his death”, the words “was consenting” sound in English as if it means that Paul kind of allowed it to happen. This is what it really means: Paul "thought well of, assented to, felt gratified with, was pleased with, had pleasure from" the killing of Stephen.
Imagine that. Saul, a Pharisee charged by God with the privilege of caring for the people of Israel, received much pleasure from seeing one of them (Stephen) tortured to death by stoning AND received much pleasure from being a part of it.
Can you imagine that?
Legalism will do that – and does it in this day and time in legalistic Christian circles.
If a person gets pleasure out of knowing how to be perfect (which, for the record, is impossible unless one actually IS Jesus) they will hate people who aren't as “perfect” as they see themselves to be.
That makes it easy for them to enjoy destroying people less than they are in their own eyes.
The law divides people; grace tears down boundaries. It is hard to kill people who are like you, but relatively easy to want to kill someone who you consider to be beneath you or totally unlike you.
That is how Nazism worked and racial supremacy works today for white supremacists and black supremacists alike. Its why people abort unwanted babies with no apparent remorse. Its why radical Islamics take delight in killing and maiming people they consider to be “infidels” and why their men so enjoy raping and humiliating women. It is why so many Christians feel superior to and look down on the lost.
Sadly, it is also why legalistic Christians tend to trash talk, mock and/or try to destroy their eternal brothers and sisters who worship or believe things differently than they do.
This is what satan tempts us to do: to see people in terms of being different from ourselves, all the while guiding us to use ourselves as the standard by which we measure everyone else.
Some time after helping to kill Stephen and enjoying that, this same Saul will have an encounter with Jesus and it will touch his heart and re-wire how he thinks. Allowing God to affect us…to CHANGE us…causes us to approach others in a different way. That man will be a different man and he will write this:
“…the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-16)
“…we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)
We must resist this tendency to fall to satan’s temptations to put anyone on a scale of better versus worse or more versus less valuable and then using that self-determined scale to justify being hurtful to anyone.
Jesus is in us. He is the Prince of Peace. He removes the barriers between people.
Let’s live this.
And if we do not currently live this….let’s repent and then live this.
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© May 3, 2019
(for use with permission)