U2 sing of surrender to God as giving in to ‘vision over visibility’. This is what Paul is recalling here in Acts 22 as he speaks to a Jewish faith stuck in their visibility. Paul literally surrendered to a vision on the Damascus Road.
GodActs Day 21: Paul – a bigot healed of his hatred! - Acts 21:37-22:21
Saul of Tarsus was perhaps the most unlikely convert to Christianity. faced with a Jewish lynch mob and arrested by Roman soldiers, he speaks calmly to the crowd in Aramaic – which encouraged them to listen.. at least for while.
I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. Acts 22:3b
As he tells his conversion story (the third time that it appears in Acts) he is saying – but I changed. I met Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ – and so can you!
What is crucial to note is that in that moment when Jesus’ new vision smashes to pieces Paul’s visibility, he didn’t say, “Lord this needs new thinking” but “Lord, What shall I do?” Christian faith is active. It is about moving in the impetus of a God active in the world.
When we start to live in God’s actions it changes our horizons. The Jews with whom Paul was debating with were stuck in the visibility of safe, same and status quo. God had moved on. The Jews seem to have forgotten that God had called them to be a blessing to the nations. Paul fulfils such a vocation as he befriends Gentiles but the Jews press charges. In their siege mentality they have become exclusive and bigoted. Paul’s vision has been transformed and he sees God’s mission to the entire world; he leaves Jerusalem for the last time, sent to reach the very Gentiles he had once hated.
God’s vision overrides Paul’s visibility. Moving not on the momentum of an old spent religion, he finds a new impetus of God sending him to those he could never have imagined loving and serving.
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