As I read this passage, I tried to imagine what was going on in the minds of those in Damascus. After Saul’s conversion, he marched into the synagogue, and was probably asked to speak by those in charge. They probably expected that he would say something to denounce the Christians. After all, the whole reason he had come to Damascus was to arrest them.
Imagine the shock the synagogue leaders received when Saul started preaching that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
What things rolled through their minds? At first, they probably were just stunned, unable to take in what Saul was saying. Then maybe they thought to themselves, “Could it be that Saul is just trying to set a trap for the Christians here by pretending to be one? He surely can’t believe all that he is saying?”
Maybe with that in mind, they debated with him and questioned him, expecting him to give a weak defense for Christianity. But instead, they found themselves being utterly defeated in their arguments. And as day after day passed, they realized, “Saul really believes what he is saying!”
The result? They tried to kill him.
What can we learn for this? Not everyone we know and love will be pleased when we start to follow Christ. Maybe at first, they’ll be too shocked at the transformation to say anything. Then maybe they’ll think it’s just a phase that will pass. But as they realize we are serious about our relationship with Christ, some may become hostile.
I’m not saying all will become this way. Hopefully, none will. But some may, including those among your family and friends. And it can be painful.
But Jesus did warn us,
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. (John 15:18-21)
Jesus never promised that all would love us for following him. What he did promise was that he would love us and would always be with us. (John 14:21, 23)
Not only that, through Christ, we receive new brothers and sisters that will love us and support us when others turn away from us.
So don’t get discouraged. Rather,
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)