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The Necessity of Forgiveness 16: A Murderer Gets a Second Chance

The Necessity of Forgiveness Day 16 – A Murderer Gets a Second Chance

Do you believe in second chances? Do you believe a bigoted murderer can change—is it really possible? So often, we make assumptions about someone who has a sordid history and surmise that they will never change. I’m guilty of thinking this way!

Perhaps one of the most powerful transformations ever seen was that of the “murderer” in our title today. Guilty of harassing the early Christians in the New Testament, Saul went as far as putting many to death for their beliefs. He hated them and sought to put an end to what he assumed were ridiculous claims about Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples and other of His followers carried out the Great Commission, spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But Saul hated Jesus—and the gospel. Saul had quite the reputation and Christians feared him.

Yet God does give second (and subsequent) chances. He saw Saul’s fervor in persecuting His people, and knew that same fervor could be used for good in God’s kingdom work, and so He pursued the heart of this man.

Fast forward to Saul’s remarkable conversion to faith in Christ (who was renamed Paul) and we see a man outstanding in his testimony for Jesus. He became one of the greatest teachers and preachers of all time. Courageous and bold, he took the message of the gospel to the Jews but also to the Gentiles, opening up a way for those outside to be brought into the family of God. Additionally, Paul penned the words of 13 (possibly 14) New Testament epistles. What a change from a bigoted murderer, right?

The point in including his story in our forgiveness series is that it demonstrates how God looks beyond our sin and failure and sees opportunity and possibility. We can be so quick to discount someone because of their past, and even struggle to believe their transformation is authentic. God did not do that with Paul, but he was led to repentance, a necessary component to being forgiven for sin, and this was clearly seen in Paul’s conversion and writings. 

God could have used someone that we would consider more qualified, but I love that He used someone like Paul, because it whispers hope for those who have shameful pasts. God’s ability to forgive is a beautiful part of His heart, and should inspire us to give others room for change and offer our support in it. We should also give people grace when they are coming out of spiritual darkness and into light. God’s salvation is transformative, so when we see this transformation in another, let us rejoice rather than doubt.

But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.” (Acts 9:15-19, ESV)

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