The coach was introducing a couple of pitchers that the team had picked up in a trade. He said, “These were guys that our hitters couldn’t hit, so we traded for them.” Trades and free agent signings shake up sports teams. Sometimes for the good. Sometimes it gets awkward. When the player who is hated because of his affiliation with a rival team shows up in the first team meeting, I imagine it can get pretty awkward.
It must have been pretty awkward in Jerusalem when Saul tried to find the disciples. No one wanted to see him. No one wanted to introduce him to his new team. Saul was feared and many may have thought that his alleged conversion was just a trick. Then Barnabas. “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9:27) I’m sure the early apostles’ eyes widened in fear when Paul walked in. They knew Barnabas and trusted him, but Saul?
Barnabas broke that ice. Saul became a member of the team that was proclaiming the gospel to the world. Little did the rest of the apostles know what would happen as God used Saul in the days to come. They did see the change in Saul and realized that this was for real as he debated with the Jews in the streets of Jerusalem. Saul was so effective, that they wanted to kill him. A professor in the past once said that the problem with Christians is that no one wants to kill them anymore. At least here in America.
Do we expect conversions like Saul’s? Probably not. If we expected them, we’d be talking to people that might be considered enemies of our faith. If not talking to them, we’d be praying for them. How will we react when the person that everyone thought was beyond hope claims to have found Jesus and walks into a fellowship of Christians? There are people out in the world that we might think would never come to Christ…and that’s part of our problem. Pray for those people. Tell them about Jesus. When they see the love of Jesus in action and turn to Him, be ready to vouch for them. God’s Kingdom continues to grow and we need to be ready to work together with His people whatever they may have done in the past.
Lord, there are many people whom common sense tells us will never turn to You. I pray for those people right now and ask that You work miraculously in their lives. May we have more and more examples of these people coming to know You and fellowshipping with Your people.