I have been reading about Paul’s life following his conversion experience with Jesus on the Damascus Road. As you recall, Paul [then Saul] was a zealous persecutor of the members of the Way. He was on his way to Damascus in search of more believers when he met the Christ. The event is worth hearing about again.
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ He replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” [Acts 9:3-6]
Saul had met Jesus, and he was forever changed. Jesus told Ananias, His disciple in Damascus, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show them how much he must suffer for my name.” [Acts 9:15-16]
And suffer he did. In Lystra he was stoned, dragged and left for dead. He was flogged and imprisoned in Philippi. He was bound in chains and imprisoned in Jerusalem, imprisoned in Caesarea and Rome. These are just a few examples of Paul’s suffering and hardships. It is quite a story – worth reading and studying time and time again.
Paul, along with most of the early followers of Christ, are inspiring examples of what it means to love Jesus unconditionally. To suffer and endure all that they did is conformation of their love for Jesus Christ. It is conformation of the power of their faith and belief in Jesus as the Savior of the world, as the Son of God, as the Messiah. Those that want to deny Jesus as the Messiah should consider why so many would suffer so much for someone who was not all He claimed to be.
If the early Christians could love Jesus that much, can’t we? It is very unlikely that we will ever have to die for our faith or go to prison or suffer torture, but could we – would we? I pray that we would. I pray that I love Him that much, for I should. He suffered and died for us out of pure love. He did not have to, He chose to. And because He chose to, we are promised eternal life in heaven. The most we are likely to suffer for Christ is occasional inconvenience for our flesh. What a small price to pay for such a Savior as He!
“But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” [1 Peter 2:20-21]