Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

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Written by Peter Langbroek
He stood there, listening and watching. The young man had run with the others as they screamed their anger in the street. They had told him to stay back to care for their coats as they were throwing rocks at the blasphemer, Stephen. He heard the thud of the rocks, and from the middle of that circle of men he heard the blasphemer cry out, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Then he died.

All was quiet. Their anger was satisfied. The group of men walked toward the young man, picked up their coats, and went about their daily work.

The young man was religious, determined to rid the land of all blasphemers as Stephen. When he thought of them his heart beat faster and his breath came harder. Let's get rid of them! Let's slaughter them, those blasphemers of God! Those followers of the Way, of that false messiah!

These liars are in our synagogues, leading the sons of Abraham astray. Obsessed with zeal, he sent letters to the city of Damascus. They must spy and discover who the people in the synagogues are. The men in Damascus read the letters and knew they were sent by permission of the high priest.

The men in Damascus were waiting for the young man to come. They were searching for the false believers, the traitors of God's covenant people. The young man was nearing Damascus, waiting for the prize: men tied up. He would send them to Jerusalem to be tried, imprisoned, even stoned. This young man was the mastermind and a terrorist. His name was Saul.

I tell you this true story from the Bible, children, because, in the events that have taken place these past few month, we need to be reminded of this young man Saul. All kinds of pictures are being drawn: steep mountains, guns, bombs, and tanks. There's a lot of talk and a lot of songs, even songs of hate toward those we've never met. It's strikes me that Saul and Osama bin Laden were not all that different from each other.

Like Saul, Osama bin Laden is very religious and zealous for his faith. Like Saul, he believes he is working for God (Allah). He's the mastermind behind the plan to rid the world of the "Christian West" and set up a religious state that will bring peace and good will to the whole world. Like Saul, he thinks his acts have received the favour of God (Allah).

Yet, we know how God converted Saul (read Acts 9). We know how Jesus told Saul Who he was persecuting. We know how Saul came to realize that Jesus was indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life. We also know how Saul, called by God, became His apostle to the Gentiles to preach Christ and Him crucified.

I don't know what Paul would do if he met Osama bin Laden. I can only imagine. I can imagine that there is no fear in his eyes, because he fears God, not men. I can imagine Paul fearlessly preaching to him what it means to be a true Christian--and not what bin Laden thinks it is. I also imagine Paul, holding bin Laden's hand, looking at us, and saying: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1: 15).

The fact is that the apostle Paul did say how we should view our enemies. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote; "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse notÉ Recompense to no man evil for evil... Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12: 14-21)

I think Paul never forgot Stephen's last words, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." I'm sure it reminded him of Jesus' words on the cross, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."

You and I, let's be like Paul.

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