In the Bible, the book called Acts tells us the story of the conversion of Saul, who later is called the Apostle Paul. He has been persecuting the Church and off to round up some more Christians who believed that Jesus was the only way. On his trip, he sees a bright light and hears a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
This statement alone contains so much valuable information. Saul was persecuting believers and hurting the Church, and Jesus takes it personally. The followers of Jesus together form the body of Christ. When it is damaged, Jesus is hurt.
The story does not end there on the road but moves into Damascus. Saul is blinded, and he goes into town where he prays and fasts for three days. At this point, the story shifts to a man named Ananias. The Lord calls to him in a vision and says, “Go find this man named Saul from Tarsus.” With this statement, Ananias refuses.
Let me pause again and say, “What in the world is going on here?” First, I would like to believe if I heard an audible voice in a vision, I would say, “Whatever you want, Lord!” Ananias is going to take a hard pass on this guy. He is known to be a murderer and anti-Christian, so he is not going to go try to find Saul. Then the Lord must get a little louder. The New International Version translates the next word as “Go” and then adds an exclamation point. There is no punctuation in the original text, but I can imagine they chose the right one to put at this location. The Lord is shocked, “I told you to do something, and you refuse, let me repeat it louder: GO!”
Now convinced that he should listen to this voice of leading, he packs up and heads to find Saul. Acts 9:17 tells us that when he entered the house, he put his hand on Saul and said his first words to him, “Brother Saul.”
Wait! Let’s stop there. A few lines ago, Ananias refused to see this guy because he was known to be violent. Now he calls him “Brother.” What changed? The only thing we see in the story is that the voice of Jesus confirmed his transformation. Jesus knew the heart of Saul and knew the transformation going on in his life. Whoever Jesus has saved and is transforming is no longer a threat; he is a brother.
Christians, the followers of Jesus, do not get the luxury of choosing who else will walk the way of faith with them. That is between them and him. But once they claim to follow him and we know their life is being transformed, then suddenly we all become family. We are the family of God who forms the body of Jesus. To ignore this truth and shun our brother or sister on this journey is to disobey our Savior and hurt him at the same time.