After acting out Saul’s conversion in Acts 9, I asked, “Girls, do you think Ananias was afraid?”
Blank stares bounce back at me.
“I think he was. Listen to what he said after God told him to go see Paul.”
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. ~Acts 9:13-15
Ananias knew of Saul. He got a memo. There was no befriending this guy and he knew it. Saul would surely kill him. But God said, “Go..”
Come on, God, really?! Saul?! You want me to do what? Go see him? At his buddy’s house? Do you even know who this guy is? Haven’t you heard what kind of things he does? He doesn’t like me, man. It will not go well if I show up, God. Trust me.
But the Lord said to him, “Go…”
Ananias was surely afraid. His faith is proven by the fact that he’s more afraid to disobey God than to avoid an awkward, uncertain, fearful situation.
Funny thing about Ananias – he greets Saul as, “Brother.” Brother. There’s no condescension. There’s no elevation. Surely both were tempting. But he didn’t walk into this relationship as a religious superior of the religious superior. He didn’t walk in as an impotent subject of the prideful authority. No. Ananias walked in placing humility and equality on the table when he came.
What grace! Ananias, in faith, humbles himself under God and before man. What faith it must have taken! He trusted God’s providence, not just with his textbook theology, but with his very life. And he didn’t need everyone to know about it. Nope. He didn’t walk in and introduce himself as either a superior or a subject. Ananias came to his arch enemy as a brother.
That’s faith. That’s the kind of faith that breeds true grace. That’s just-like-Jesus faith. Unfortunately, not everyone in the early church had that kind of faith.
And when he (Saul) had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. ~Acts 9:26-27
They were all afraid of him. They did not believe that he was the real deal. Hey, they had their reasons, ok. But Barnabas breathed some more grace. He picked up where Ananias left off. Barnabas took Saul under his wing and was willing to stand in the gap between fear and faith. He had to have known that if this guy reneged, it was his neck on the guillotine from both sides. But Barnabas did it anyway. He believed in his brother. He trusted his brother. He stood up for his brother.
That’s great faith.
…And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. ~Acts 9:31b
Why did the early church multiply? Because men like Ananias and Barnabas put away their fear of man and walked in the fear of the Lord. Church growth analysts, take note.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. ~1 John 4:18-21