His beginnings a Christian started on the road to Damascus, but Saul's exposure to mercy began long before that. He had been among the crowd on the day Stephen was murdered. While we don't see him as actively picking up a rock to stone him, Saul assisted those who did by holding their garments. Still he had to have been somewhat disturbed in his heart when heard those lasting words:
Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)
Those words might not have stopped Saul from pursuing a life of persecuting the early Church, but they no doubt would remain a testimony to him when he converted and became the apostle Paul. He would later go on to carefully instruct churches in need of mercy throughout his ministry. He seemed to specialize in dealing with the church in crisis. Through his instruction, Paul would make sure to extend mercy, even when it didn't seem the church necessarily deserved it.
A Change in Approach
It wasn't just Stephen's last prayer that spoke to Paul. Christ himself showed Saul what it was to be merciful. Jesus had Saul dead-to-rights on the road to Damascus. Throughout the era of man, God had punished those who had railed against his people and Saul stood as one of them. However, Christ did not enact vengeance that day. Instead he showed mercy to Saul. He offered him hope instead of annihilation. To receive such mercy from a God who was well known for his wrath against those who hated his people spoke to Saul. It changed him that moment. He had been given a new lease on life, and he was willing to do whatever it took to take hold of it.
Mercy That Welcomes
God sent to Saul a man named Ananias. Even though he was afraid of Saul, he trusted God and went to pray for him. This was during a desperate time for Saul. He was blind and had just decided to abandon the life he had known for years. If Ananias had not shown up, he would have been at best left blind and alone. At worst, he would have returned to his evil ways. Yet, Ananias had a merciful mindset and he went in an prayed over Saul. God opened Saul's eyes that day, both figuratively and literally, and he began to follow Christ fervently. Because of mercy.
Mercy That Establishes
Finally, we see Barnabas as the great purveyor of mercy to Saul. Once he had been converted, Saul was excited to get involved in the Kingdom of God, but nobody in Jerusalem was excited to receive him. They were scared of him, some probably bitter for what he had done the church and others skeptical of whether he had truly converted. Barnabas, as we mentioned in a previous devotion, had a merciful mindset. He also had the Holy Ghost leading him, and he took Saul under his wing. It was this act that cemented Saul in the church and set him on his way to do great things for the Kingdom of God later on.
Making Memorials With Mercy
Saul's story shows us something about being merciful. It is something we must do at all times. When people are participating in persecution and attacks on us, be merciful. When people have made up in their minds to be against us, be merciful. When someone is given the opportunity to turn their lives around, be merciful. When someone goes from being a hell raiser to a converted saint, be merciful. We don't know who they might become. Even if we never see it fulfilled in our lives, be merciful.
Look back in your life where God and others have been merciful to you
Write out the things you did to not deserve mercy
Write out how they exhibited mercy to you anyways
Write out how that helped you progress in God
Carry that journal entry with you and commit to doing that to someone else.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.