I started yesterday’s reflection with ‘Can people change?’ Some would say that a leopard can't change its spots. People are what they are. Once they're adults, they can't change. It has to do with their genes, and their environment, and their culture, and their upbringing. Is there more to people than instinct, and environment? So, how do we react to people who say they have changed? Do we assume what we know of their past, and read them in that light?
Saul grew more and more powerful in Damascus, talking about Jesus the Messiah. The Jews he came to save from ‘the way’, now heard him proclaiming powerfully about this Jesus. They seek to kill him, but his followers help him escape. Not surprising that the Jews were confused. Back in Jerusalem, the disciples of Jesus were also wary. There was one who knew the story and trusted what Jesus had done in Saul’s conversion, and he acted to deal with the doubts the Apostles had about Saul. And they believed this change to be true, and powerful activity of God. This gave Saul the opportunity to proclaim what he now knew as truth about Jesus, to those Jews who he once identified with. Can a leopard change its spots? No! But a person can be changed by God, through the power of the good news of Jesus declared, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the one who declares the message, and with the one who hears the message.
We can limit the possibilities of God, and God’s mission, when we hold on to our assumptions of who people are from their past behaviour. Saul became Paul, and the power of God’s mission was moved forward, dramatically, through his preaching, teaching and visionary understanding. Imagine what it could have been like, if Barnabus didn’t respond with faith about Saul’s conversion story, and the Apostles didn’t listen to him, and continued to be fearful! Who do you need to give the benefit of the doubt to today?