by Christopher Harbin

For My Name
Christopher B. Harbin
Acts 9:3-16

Fear is a powerful motivator. On one level, a healthy fear keeps us safe and teaches us to treat dangerous situations with caution. It protects our lives by helping us determine what might harm us or others. On another level, unhealthy fear incapacitates us, intimidates us, or keeps us from doing what we should do, even without cause. Then there are those circumstances for which we have learned the rules for keeping our lives safe and secure. These may be generally good rules and standards, yet God calls us to step beyond them into situations in which we see nothing but danger, uncertainty, and insecurity. How do we respond when we God calls us to move beyond our fears for some higher purpose? How do we respond to God’s call to live in confidence in the face of uncertainty or danger?

Paul was one of those who lived his life basing his decisions in response to a general fear of what was unknown and different. He allowed his anxiety over the Christian threat to Judaism to guide his actions. He responded with violence to repress the growing talk about this Jesus character. He saw the growth of this band who followed Jesus in Jerusalem as a threat. Their influence was extending beyond Palestine, and he took steps to curb its expansion. Armed with letters from Jewish leaders, he set out for Damascus in an attempt to protect Judaism by attacking this threat directly, persecuting believers in hopes of turning them back to Judaism. They were a danger he feared needed eliminating.

Then God intervened.

Paul’s actions had been about protecting the status quo. He had been working to preserve the purity of Judaism. He was protecting the Mosaic traditions, his people’s way of life, their rituals, rites, and interpretations passed down for generations. He was working to protect God, zealously guarding what he knew to be true. The problem was that God neither needed nor wanted this protection. In the mid ...

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