“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
Even the worst of sinners, even the most brutal of hearts, even the most wicked of people, the power of the Spirit can come upon even them to bring about a true and sincere repentance, working in their hearts to bring them to contrition when it seems as if they have been engulfed by the darkness that they have inflicted upon the world.
This would be a lesson that Paul, once Saul of Tarsus, would know so well, having learned it within his own life so well.
He had been a brutal man, a bitter man, proud and strong in his iniquities as he imposed his judgment and zealotry on the hearts and the minds of others, breaking their bodies, bringing oppression and subjugation, persecution and imprisonment, death and destruction wherever he rode. So much fear did he incur as he wreaked terror with as far as his name reached that as he stood blind and confused on the road to Damascus, having heard the voice of Jesus call out to him he waited for Ananias to come. Yet, the disciple of Damascus feared even coming close to Saul. He had heard the stories, he had probably known some of the men and women who were dragged off to their death, he had felt the pang of loss amidst the hatred that Saul brought down upon the early church. Now, as he was told to meet the man, he trembled at the prospect of it (Acts 9:1-17).
The story of Saul isn’t one of the great mysteries of the Bible. Having been instructed in the faith he once tried to destroy, he would life the remainder of his life as one of its greatest defenders, before dying for it at the hands of Nero Caesar. Though once an enemy of justice and liberty, the power of Christ and the works of the Spirit would redeem this lost and fallen man, giving him the blessed assurances of faith as he left his wickedness and his unrighteousness to contend for the cause of the Savior in the deeper callings of the Lord.
It is here that we learn the abiding lesson of faith, understanding that through God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). For though one may have once been lost, God has the power to find them and, in the strength of His love and compassion, mercy and grace, carry them from the fallen places that brought them to the places of hatred and fear that they now so dwell in.
This is why we are taught, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44) For even as one reveals himself to be our enemy, even as one brings persecution and oppression, even as one makes slaves out of men and women, preying on weakness to bring such harm into this world, God is at work to show them that they have wandered down a path that holds not only the lives of those they inflict themselves upon cheap, but their own lives as well as they journey down a path of spiritual death, separating themselves from the love of God through their own sinful ways and servitude to the prince of this world.
It is a hard thing to pray for our enemies, to bless them amidst their lives, considering the wickedness that they bring or the hurt that they inflict. They bring death and destruction, they cause so much hurt and suffering, agony and anguish through the darkness that they bring, leaving us to lament the loss and mourn the innocence ripped away from us so brutally. We want not only justice but vengeance as well, for our hearts tell us that we have to make them pay for their crimes against their fellow man, for their crimes against our very humanity as they make slaves, robbing the dignity from life, holding its integrity to be worthless.
Yet what we must understand is that vengeance begets vengeance. Truly the only way to end persecution and oppression, slavery and subjugation, is through the power of God working in this world to put the evil in the hearts of men to flight, creating a new spirit within the souls of the enemies of justice and liberty, the enemies of freedom and mercy. It is only then that true righteousness comes to bear as a sincere repentance is worked in people and they find that they are truly sorry for the pride and the arrogance, for the hatred and the intolerance that had caused them to wreak such havoc in the lives of others as they held them in such grim estate and such painful darkness.
Pray therefore for your enemies, for the enemies of God. Pray for those who are guided by their own flesh and lusts, for those who are guided by captivity, taking and ripping people from their lives, making them slaves or selling them as hostages. Pray for those who bring persecution and oppression, those who seek to assert themselves over the lives of others in the worst forms of tyranny and oppression, showing their true faces through the cruelty and repression that they bring. Pray, pray to the Lord for them, even when it is hard, even when it is a difficult task for you to take up, because you want to see vengeance done, because you want to see the enemies of mankind destroyed.
Rememember the love of God. Remember that there is power in the blood of Christ, there is authority in the works of the Spirit, there is true wonder in the hand of God as it moves through this world and in this world, making His presence known unto us. It is then, when we hold up the power of that might and the strength of that authority, when we put our faith in those wonders and rely on those assurances that come from the Lord, it is then, when we pray for repentance and love, grace and compassion to come to the hearts of the evil and the unrighteous, that even the worst of sinners, even the chief of sinners shall find that mercy shall be worked in their lives as the voice of Jesus calls unto them and creates in them a contrite heart, regretful of the hurt they brought, seeking forgiveness for the inflictions that they have caused, penitent and remorseful for the anguish and the agony that came so easily to them.
There is power and it offers even onto the most lost, even the most wicked peace that they may do what is right and good, what is righteous in the eyes of the Lord as they seek no longer their own ways but the path of the Lord God Almighty in the love that He brings in the lives of the people. Lord, grant this understanding, grant this heart of love unto us all.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.