Summary: Faith that is passionate may still be blind and arrogant. Paul discovered this on the Road to Damascus and learned how to have a true and mature faith
A Jewish father was concerned about his son who was about a year away from his Bar Mitzvah, but was sorely lacking in his knowledge of the Jewish faith. To remedy this, he sent his son to Israel to experience his heritage.
A year later the young man returned home. "Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our fathers," the son said. "It was wonderful and enlightening; however, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity."
"Oi vey," replied the father, "what have I done?" So, in the tradition of the patriarchs, he went to his best friend and sought his advice.
"It is amazing that you should come to me," stated his friend. "I, too, sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian." So in the tradition of the patriarchs, they went to the Rabbi.
"It is amazing that you should come to me," stated the Rabbi. "I, too sent my son to Israel and! he returned a Christian. What is happening to our sons?
Brothers, we must take this to the Lord." They fell to their knees and began to pray and pour out their hearts to the Almighty.
As they prayed, the clouds above opened and the mighty voice of God said, "Amazing that you should come to me. I, too, sent my Son to Israel........"
This morning’s New Testament lesson is about a conversion. It’s a famous, well-known conversion experience, at least for Christians. It is the conversion of Paul, or as he is still known at the time of our New Testament Lesson, Saul.
Now one thing you have to say about Paul is that he was a man of great faith.
Before this New Testament Lesson, he is a man of a deep Jewish faith.
After this New Testament Lesson, he is a man of a deep Christian faith.
But that is not the only conversion that Saul or Paul experiences here.
It is also one of converting from arrogant faith, to mature faith.
Let me share a line from a book I read recently. Actually, I didn’t really read the book – just the first 50 pages – which is about the time I discovered the book had no plot. It was dull, it was boring. But it had an interesting but disturbing line on page 9: “Ian was sort of conventional about religion. He always went to church on Sunday. However – I think he was the only Christian I ever met who was polite about his religion.”
Is that the way the world sees us?
Are we so passionate about our faith that we have become rude and arrogant about our faith?
Well, that was Saul. He was arrogant about his faith.
I. ARROGANT FAITH LISTENS ONLY TO PART TRUTHS
Faith that is arrogant listens only selectively to the truth – it does not listen to the whole truth.
And that was Saul.
Saul was a very religious individual.
He was described as blameless according to the Law of Moses.
In other words, Saul was passionate for God, so he listened to voice of the law and tradition, which was good.
Saul was also a Pharisee among Pharisees, very passionate for the faith of his fathers and absolutely convinced that he was doing the Will of God.
In other words, Saul was passionate for God, so he listened to voice of his community of faith, which was good.
Saul was well educated – Trained at the feet of Gamaliel, one of Israel’s greatest teachers of the day.
In other words, Saul was passionate for God, so he listened to voice of his teachers, which was good.
Unfortunately, of all the voices he was listening to, there was one voice that was missing. The voice of Jesus.
Arrogant faith refuses to listen to the whole word of God.
II. ARROGANT FAITH HAS PASSION WITHOUT COMPASSION
Arrogant faith is also a faith that has a lot of passion, but has very little compassion.
If you have not met people like that, they you have certainly seen them on television. For example, the Islamic Extremists who kidnap people – mostly innocent civilians, and who hold them hostage and in many cases behead them. It is so difficult to read about these people in the newspapers, but when we do we often shake our heads in confussion and wonder, ‘how can people who claim to have so much faith be filled with so much hate?”
It is because theirs is not a mature faith, but an arrogant faith.
It has passion, but no compassion. It is missing so much that true, mature faith ought to have.
Saul was like that.
He was on fire for God. He was filled with passion. But his faith early on lacked so much.