ACTS 9:13-18: “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” CSB
OBSERVATION: Am I free from prejudice? Do I see every person as a soul that is capable of being redeemed? Is there anyone outside of the power of God’s saving grace?
The story of Saul’s miraculous conversion addresses these questions. It also challenges my heart. Many times I find myself living on both sides of the fence. On one hand I believe in the wonderful and transforming power of God’s love through Jesus Christ. On the other hand I find it difficult to believe that some people will ever change. When I am completely honest with myself I see the same prejudice that Ananias battled with.
Who would want to go to the house of a murderer? The stoning of Stephen, under the supervision of Saul, was not done in secret. The news of this, and Saul’s arrest of believers, spread rapidly through this young and growing church. Ananias knew full well who Saul was and what the Lord was calling him to do. Ananias did not try to hide his prejudice from the Lord. Rather, Ananias confessed it before the Lord. I need to confess mine too!
Near our new home there was a house with a large open field. We drive past it every time we are heading into town. My wife noticed that there was an organized group of cement parking barriers in this open field. We were both puzzled at what this meant. Who has parking barriers in an open field by their house? Then a sign went up. Next a tent was placed behind the house. The sign stated – “Islamic Center of Clermont.”
After September 11, 2001, I have battled with prejudice regarding those who hold the Islamic faith. This prejudice has been mostly out of fear. I tried to pretend it was not there. However, whenever I board a plane and see someone who appears to be Muslim, I face it all over again. I know this is wrong. I know that most Muslims are not terrorists. However, I have allowed fear to take hold of my heart. I am like Ananias. Yet, I have not been as honest about my prejudice as Ananias was about his with the Lord.
This is not a plea to embrace Islam. There is only one true God, and only one true Savior – Jesus Christ our Lord. Yet, when I allow fear to prejudice my heart, am I extending the good news to those who need to hear it? Did Jesus die only for those who live in the Western world, or did He die for the whole world? If Jesus can save Saul, if He can transform my sinful heart, isn’t He able to save all men and women who call upon His name? Can the power of the Gospel break through the veil of Islam? Can it even transform the heart of a terrorist?
There are so many wonderful testimonies of people of the Islamic faith who are now meeting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. The veil that was over their heart has been torn asunder. The Lord Jesus Christ is reaching Sauls all over the world. And when I see an Islamic center, or any faith that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ move into my neighborhood, I need not reel back in fear. The Lord is bringing the nations to my own backyard. The Gospel is still the power of God to save. It is time to let go of my prejudices and fear and to let my light shine. It is an opportunity to show the wonderful love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
- “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 CSB
Truth be told, I am a work in progress. Each day I must face my prejudices head on. I need to bring them to the Lord and confess them. I need to admit my fears and affirm God’s love. I need a transforming work of God’s grace in my life and heart. The apostles did not eschew the Jews of Greeks who did not know Christ. Rather, God called them to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. This call is still our call. We need to lay all fear and prejudice at the foot of the cross!
Lord, this morning, cleanse my heart of any prejudice that I have against anyone who is different than I am. Help me see all people as You see them. You came and died for the sins of the entire world so that all who would believe may be saved. Help me take Your Gospel to the ends of the earth, and to the corners of my neighborhood.
In Jesus Name!