Let’s admit it, our nations niche is to be angry. Anger is not necessarily a bad emotion, but when used in the wrong way with the wrong motives, it can destroy relationships. Whether the byproduct is abuse, offense, or just being misunderstood, anger doesn’t just affect how you feel, but almost always hurts those around you as well. In addition, studies show that bottling up anger leads to unhealthy resentment that impacts our emotional and physical health. However, God has the supernatural ability to help anyone overcome a world filtered with hatred.
As we read Acts 9, God shows us his grace in our imperfections through a man known as Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a very religious man who was part of a Jewish sect called the Pharisees. Pharisees were distinguished scholars of the Jewish religion, and considered themselves superior because of their strict observance in the law and traditional customs. However, when people who called themselves followers of “The Way” started teaching Jesus Christ being Lord above the law, Saul, and the Jewish sect of Pharisees were very much angered:
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2
Saul’s motives were clear, he wanted to eradicate anyone who were followers of Jesus Christ. He had already put many believers into prison, but still seeking to prove that his way was the right way, he was determined to go to Damascus. If you were to label a man of his character today, you would probably call him a terrorist, but God had a different plan set in place:
“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Acts 9:3-6
Uh oh! Paul realized that his motives for being angry were actually wrong! And to add salt to the wound, he also found out that those Christians whom he was persecuting were actually right! How many times do we find ourselves regretting our actions because we were fueled by anger? But thanks to God’s overwhelming grace, Saul was able to receive the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ:
“For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ And all who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem…’” Acts 9:19b-21
Saul had a complete transformation! So much so, that he even changed his name from “Saul” to “Paul” which in Latin means “small” or “humble”. Afterwards, Paul took the good news about Jesus Christ Farther than any other Christian of his time, speaking to rulers, mobs, and even fellow Pharisees.
More to the point, Paul was no longer hostile towards any group, but defended the gospel through peaceful means. In other words, God changed a man driven by anger and led him towards a new life.
God wants to transform our brokenness and give us a new identity. We cannot say we love God and willingly choose to hate people because in parallel, we are also aiming our anger towards God. God wants to save us from our motives and instead, replace them with his purposes.