The changing of his name was a love story in and of itself, from Saul to Paul. In the middle of his life, he had an awakening conversation with Jesus that led to an amazing conversion of life. People simply shook their heads in disbelief when they heard it. In the space of days, Paul went from persecuting Christians to loving Christ and along the journey he became one the most compelling witnesses to the good news of Jesus.
Our love story played itself out in the latter years of Paul’s life. His goal, the goal of Paul’s heart was to preach the gospel at Rome, the center of the empire. But before he could get to Rome he was imprisoned in Ceaserea. God’s most gifted spokesman was lost in the legal system for over two years.
When I read that story I had to ask God why? Why allow this gifted spokesman for Jesus to stay locked away in a jail for two years before getting to Rome?
Acts 25 and 26 might give us some insight into Paul’s two year detour. In the last days before Paul finally gets out of Ceaserea, a divine opportunity presents itself. Paul receives an audience with King Herod Agrippa II, an opportunity to tell Herod about Jesus.
Let me tell you about King Herod Agrippa II. His great grandfather was Herod the Great; the infamous Herod of Bethlehem’s Christmas story. Hearing that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem, he had all the Bethlehem boys under the age of two killed. Near the end of his life, he had leaders from around the country imprisoned with orders for their execution on the day he died. He wanted to make sure tears were shed when he died.
His great Uncle Herod Antipas delivered John the Baptist’s head on a platter. His father King Agrippa I had James killed and Peter imprisoned. Perhaps no single family had ever set itself against the family of God like Agrippa’s family had; Kingdom enemy #1.
Could it be God’s love is so great; His pursuit so persistant that He would keep his #1 spokesman in jail for two years so that his #1 enemy might have one more chance to know that love? Talk about loving your enemies.
Love your enemies — certainly that’s one of Jesus’ more radical commands.
Can I celebrate the death of an enemy I love? Perhaps, but certainly my celebration will be shaped/tempered by my love, won’t it? Could I kill an enemy whom I love? Perhaps, especially if it’s my duty to protect, my duty to enforce or carry out justice — but surely my love will bring an element of sadness. Would I pray for my enemy if I loved them?
The command to love your enemies is given to individuals. I’m not sure if a government can love it’s enemies, or even if it should. But I’m not the government, I’m an individual. An individual follower of Jesus and the questions I face are, “Did I love my enemy? Do I love my enemies?” I think I prayed at least once or twice for Osama, not sure if that counts as love.