Saturday, January 27, 2024

Forgiveness in Damascus

Map of Roman Damascus, NKJV Cultural Study Bible

by Naomi Craig

If you've been a Christian any length of time. you're probably familiar with Saul's dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.

He is on a self appointed mission to drag Believers in the Risen Jesus back to Jerusalem where they would be imprisoned--or killed. Jesus meets him on the way, blinding his eyes and opening his heart.  For three days, Saul fasts and prays until the Lord sends a 'certain disciple,' Ananias to go to him.

Paulus wordt door Ananias van zijn blindheid genezen, RP-P-OB-46.082, Wikimedia

Immediately after receiving his sight and being baptized (and eating­čśť), Saul sets off to the very synagogues he was going to accuse believers to preach Jesus as the long awaited Messiah.  Then Saul is lowered from the wall to avoid attack and goes off to become a super-Christian and write half of the new testament, right? Just kidding. Saul himself would not have wanted to be elevated to a level of import we bestow on him.

There are a couple details that are glossed over in Acts 9 that I'd love to dive into.

To set the stage, Damascus was at least a six day journey from Jerusalem. Why would Saul feel it necessary to track down believers that far away from Jerusalem? 

As an elite Pharisee, Saul saw the teachings of the risen Jesus quite heretical. How could a man who was very clearly killed by Roman crucifixion--Roman soldiers were very good at their job. When they had orders to execute someone, they did it well--have risen again? 

I've got to admit, if someone came into my church today making claims that they were Jesus, I'd be very skeptical and think they were against God's word. Know what I'm saying?

Damascus was also a major trade cross roads. If the Way made it here, it would spread rapidly to the Mesopotamia and Arabia. Saul was sure he was doing the world a favor by maintaining purity in the faith.

If there was cause for Saul to make the long journey, there must have been a sizeable crowd of believers. One of those was a man named Ananias (not the man who conspired with his wife to lie about the sale of their land). 

Can you imagine being in Ananias' position? being specifically called by Jesus to be the instrument of healing to this man who had the power and authority to have him imprisoned or brutally killed?

This isn't the first or the last event of Jesus asking His followers to forgive those who brutally tortured them. All throughout history, those being martyred are able to extend forgiveness and even embrace their horrific death in the love and name of Jesus. 

Think of Stephen, who while being stoned, asked Jesus to forgive his persecutors for his death.

Kamer in het Corrie ten Boomhuis in de Barteljorisstraat, Wikimedia
Entrance to the hiding place in Corrie ten Boom's room

Corrie Ten Boom who, when speaking to audiences after WWII about forgiving the guards at the concentration camps and one of those same guards came to her afterward. He said since that time at Ravensbruk he had become a Christian and repented of his deeds. 

Elizabeth Elliot and Rachael Saint returning to the Wadonai people after their husband and brother respectively had been slain by the people. 

The list cannot be numbered.

Ananias is asked to do the unimaginable by approaching the man responsible for the persecutions of his friends and loved ones, brothers and sisters in Christ and he has to be the one to reach out and heal the man, and offer him grace.

When the believers heard of Saul's conversion, they naturally were wary. They even sent him back to his home in Tarsus, unsure what to do with him. It was only when Barnabas came to fetch him to help serve the churches in Antioch that it seems people began accepting Saul's leadership.

Paulus wird in Damaskus von seinen Sch├╝lern gerettet.jpg, wikimedia

Interesting tidbit:

In Galatians 1:17 Saul "went to Arabia and returned again to Damascus." It seems there was about 3 years between his conversion till the famous escape down the wall to escape the death plot against him.

Have you ever had to forgive someone in a massive way? How did you see the Lord show up for you?

Four lives. Four destinies. One gospel.

Rumors of the risen Christ spread through Jerusalem like a wildfire. Stephen’s brutal stoning accelerates the persecution and sends the faithful fleeing the city.

The Kingdom of God spreads to Damascus, Joppa, Caesarea, Antioch, and Tarsus through the testimonies of Ananias, Tabitha, and Barnabas. While an outraged Saul sets out for Damascus to arrest them all, the followers press on fervently, with the help of the Holy Spirit—though it may cost them their lives.

Four disciples whose lives are intertwined, told in four novellas, chronicling the birth pains of the early church

Find And Their Numbers Grew on Amazon

Author of Biblical fiction, avid reader, and pastor's wife, Naomi loves reading the Bible and imagining how things were at the time. When she’s not serving in various areas at church or trying to stay on top of mountains of dishes, you'll most likely find her enjoying a good book and a cup of coffee. Naomi is the founder of Biblical Fiction Aficionados Community on Facebook and co-hosts #BehindTheStory on YouTube. When not writing or trying to wrangle social media, Naomi attempts to get her rescue dogs to be cute on command for the many pics she takes throughout the day.


  1. Thank you for posting today, and Happy New Year to you and your family. I have had to forgive many people in my life, and I feel it is a continuing process. I do think about the instances from time to time, which is why I feel it's a continual process, and the main thing I remember is that if I don't forgive these people, I will not be forgiven by my Father.

  2. Forgiveness is a beautiful concept. True forgiveness is not easy by any means, but I think the result of it can open so many doors for growth and a deeper faith.