I’ve been reading through Acts lately thanks to the latest sermon series at Emergence. I was struck by an interesting dichotomy between two conversions in chapters 8 and 9.
In the first conversion, we find the story of an Ethiopian eunuch whose curiosity for the things of God led him to discover Jesus. Let’s assume this guy has had no contact with any sort of religious education. After all, according to Deuteronomy 23.1, he wasn’t allowed in the temple anyway.
And yet as Philip talks with him about the ancient book of Isaiah, this eunuch very readily and simply trusts Jesus.
In stark contrast to the story of the eunuch’s conversion is Saul’s conversion in chapter 9. While the eunuch followed Jesus without the need for any real coaxing, it took a supernatural slap in the face for Saul to finally follow Jesus. And his road was marked with pain, suffering, and humiliation.
He was slammed off his horse, exposed to an extremely bright light, lectured by Jesus himself, left blind and completely dependent on someone else’s help, and cared for by the very man he was planning on executing.
Here’s the funny thing—Saul was the religious one.
So what have I learned from this? For starters, no one is outside of God’s reach. From the broken and remorseful sinner to the passionate and violent religious leader, God reaches all of us.
But I think he has to hit religious people a little harder. We’re stubborn, set in our ways, and we believe we’re right about everything. So he steps in, introduces a little bit of pain because, unlike the “sinner,” we haven’t experienced life’s hardships that would draw us to him, and confronts us directly.
So what does that mean for me? I’m not totally sure. I think God’s telling me that I need to love religious people just as much as I love non-religious people. They need his grace just as much as anyone else. The problem is that we’re often very unwilling to accept it.