“Saul Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Acts 9:4
Can you imagine what it would be like to hear these words from the mouth of God? God who is alpha and omega, the great I Am, the ever existing and everlasting One. If God is above us in all ways, whole and complete, unaffected by our actions how can we possibly persecute Him?
“‘For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'” Matthew 25:42-45
This is the beauty of the oneness between Creator and created, God and mankind. This is the reality of the love of God – that He condescends to our human level and engages in every second of our lives alongside us. This is the truth of His indwelling in His people.
‘Indwelling’ is defined as being permanently present in someone’s soul. Although we may not all be baptized and have the full indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us – each of us was created as an icon (or image) of Christ. Every human is marked by God.
“He has also set eternity in the human heart.” Ecc. 3:11
This very real and intimate connection between God and man explains why He feels persecuted, when we are persecuted. He suffers, when we suffer. Our tears are His tears.
“In all their afflictions, He was afflicted.” Isaiah 63:9.
What can we say about such great love? Saint Paul says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15
We often forget, at least I forget almost daily, that God empathizes with our weaknesses and our struggles. Not only has he been tempted in every way as we were, but also He remembers our frame and knows that we are simply dust (Psalm 103:14).
Often we hold the bad things that happen to us against God, we reject Him because of the evil that exists in the world – forgetting that it is our free will that is the problem, not Him. In a book I’m reading called Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, by Elder Thaddeus, a vision is described whereby Jesus appears before the elder crying. When asked why He was crying, Jesus responded ‘because people repay evil for evil’.
Why are you persecuting me?
How powerful is that vision? It is constantly on my mind. Most of us want someone to be committed to us, to be a constant uplifting and reassuring presence in our life. Yet, Jesus is already there in our lives, unbeknownst to us, in the most intimate way possible. God is the only constant one. The only perfect one is Christ. When people disappoint us, we repay evil for evil; we lose our patience and speak harshly (I am speaking about my own weaknesses); or we give up on them.
Let us remember that all people are images of God. Yes, we are all works in progress but let us ask Christ to remind us, in all of our interactions, of His personal connection to and relationship with each human soul – how we treat others is a reflection of how we treat Him.
I pray that we persecute Him no longer and that, instead, we dedicate our lives to serving, honouring, and respecting all His creation – like Saint Paul after his encounter with Christ.