And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:3-4)
Saul, who would later become Paul, had an encounter with the Lord that few have ever experienced. He was hit with Jesus’ complete glory–nothing held back–and he might as well have been hit by a steam locomotive. He dropped to the ground. He experienced what every person on the entire earth will experience when Jesus comes again–we will all drop to the ground, whether we want to or not. No one can stand before Jesus’ incomprehensible glory.
What’s interesting is that Jesus does not reprimand Saul, but rather asks him a question:
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
In essence, “Why are you hurting Me? ”
Not, “Why are you persecuting My church? Why did you encourage the stoning of my beloved Stephen?”
Those would be easier questions for Saul, because he really believed that the Christians were distorting the faith of his fathers. But when Jesus made it personal, he had no defense. No words. No excuse.
I came upon a somewhat similar situation a few months ago. I was talking to my boyfriend and railing about his former girlfriend. I was saying things like, “She treated you so badly. She wasn’t even that attractive. What on earth did you see in her and why did you stay with her so long? Why did you put up with that?”
You know what he said to that? “Sweetheart, you’re hurting me.”
Wow. That took the wind out of my sails. The air out of my balloon. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those few words because they illustrated to me the essence of my man: love. And there was nothing else I could say…or even wanted to. In fact, I felt ashamed. Which is probably how Saul felt, too.
Jesus made it personal. What Saul had been doing to the Christians, he had also been doing to Jesus. Every stone that was hurled at Stephen, was felt by Jesus. Every flogging of His beloved new believers was felt by Him afresh, as though he were being flogged again like the horrific whipping He took at Calvary, because He lives in us.
If we were to watch our son or daughter beaten or stoned, you can bet we would feel it to the core of our being. But Jesus feels things hurled at His children–whether physical or verbal–in real time, because He is a part of us.
We can learn two things from this. First, the next time we want to slander someone, hurt or gossip about them, we can remember that we are hurting Jesus. How would we feel if we overheard someone gossiping about our child? Wouldn’t we want to stand up and defend them? Jesus does, and it hurts Him. We are His bride, and He loves us with an everlasting love.
Secondly, we can learn from Jesus’ response to Saul as to how we should conduct our own relationships. When someone is verbally attacking us, do we need to put up our dukes? Defend ourselves? Throw verbal mud back at our offender? Or do we stand there, with love in our eyes and say, “You’re hurting me.”
What’s amazing about those 3 words is that you can’t argue them. Someone can try to say, “No I’m not.” But of course, that’s silly. No one can determine whether you’re being hurt or not. Or, “Well, I don’t mean to hurt you.” What, then, did they mean to do? (It’s best not to ask this question. In this case, the three little words, “You’re hurting me” are amazingly powerful all by themselves. They certainly convicted me.)
Love is always the best response. It can literally change lives, just as it has changed mine. I have found someone who responds in love on a regular basis–and I have hurled a lot of stones at him because I wanted to see if he was for real–and I have not been the same since.