By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.
The story of Saul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus is a wonderful story. In this story we encounter a pivotal moment in the history of the Church. Without Paul on the road to Damascus we wouldn’t have his letters, we wouldn’t have the churches he planted, we wouldn’t have the depth of theology and interpretation that Paul’s words have given us. Suffice it to say, this is probably one of the most important passages in the entire New Testament that doesn’t feature Jesus when he was alive and walking around.
But whenever I read this passage my attention turns to a different section. Instead of the Road to Damascus, I think about the little house on Straight Street, and the denizen therein.
Firstly, Straight Street is hard to say. Take a second and say it five times fast. You can’t. Or at least, I can’t (it’s even hard for me to type correctly).
Secondly, Ananias is a fascinating character to me. Not much is known about him, and this is the only place in the Bible he shows up. You’d think the person who aided Saul in his conversion would merit more than a passing mention here, yet this is what we have. The entire historical record of this man.
Ananias was clearly a faithful man, one who cared deeply about God. A man who was given a vision of God. But he also shared his doubts with God. “You want me to talk to Saul? That guy is bad news!” but God, being God, basically just says “Yeah, he’s bad news, but I’m God and it’ll be ok.”
So Ananias found Saul and welcomed him into his home. Welcomed this persecutor, this cruel man, this monster, into his home and baptized him. What a brave man. What an incredibly brave act he took by doing that.
What can we learn from this man?
Ananias was afraid to address those evils. It was a fearful thing to do. Saul was a cruel man who wanted nothing more than to hurt him. The first thing Ananias did was ask for help. He voiced his fears to God and received the help. Then he addressed the issue, he helped this person see the impact of his violence, and helped bring Saul to repentance.
For some of us, there are these threats. Existential threats that put safety in danger. For others, the threat comes when we stand up to prevent harm coming from others. As Ananias shows us, it’s ok to be afraid of the consequences for standing up when people are threatened. But Ananias also showed a trust in God’s hand to protect Ananias. When it’s time for us to stand up and be counted among those who showed love for our neighbor, we need to trust that God will hold us too. That we will be able to draw strength from God’s Spirit. We are situated to do good work, if we can let go of our fear. Like Ananias welcoming Saul, let us bravely face our fear of standing up to injustice and go and serve God fully.