But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 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.
No one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace.
God is not limited by the sins someone has committed. He’s not concerned with your neighbor’s opposition to the gospel. And the gospel isn’t confined to a specific demographic. God can change anyone’s life in Christ.
But let’s be honest:
It can be difficult reaching out to “sinners.”
They sound different.
Their clothes are different.
They watch forbidden shows and movies.
Their kids have a Snapchat account and attend public school.
This list can go on. But you get the point.
Regardless if someone has a checkered past or is tangled up in sin, they are not outside of the reach of God. We see this reality painted clearer in the example of Ananias embracing Saul after his conversion.
Welcoming the un-welcomed
The Apostle Paul is someone you wouldn’t expect to become a Christian. Prior to spearheading the launch of the gospel around the world, Paul persecuted Christians. Before he was a martyr—he was a murderer, and surrendering his life to Christ was the last thing on his mind.
But that all changed (Acts 9:1-10).
On his way to imprison Christians in Damascus, Paul—who originally went by Saul—encountered the risen Christ. During this encounter, Saul committed his life to Christ (Acts 9:5).
Around the time of this event, the Lord appeared to a disciple by the name of Ananias in a vision, and he asked him to find Saul so that he could “lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight” (Acts 9:12). But Ananias wasn’t having this at first. He knew Saul had marching orders to arrest people in his town for believing in Jesus (Acts. 9:13–14).
To help Ananias overcome his fears, God made his request a second time, and then he told him that Saul was his chosen instrument to share the gospel with the “Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
Hearing this still didn’t make things easy for Ananias. He still had to step out in faith, visit Saul, and then pray for him. We can only imagine the amount of stress and anxiety he was feeling on his way to see Saul.
We may never wrestle with the tension created by welcoming someone into our local church was a persecutor of the Church. But we will have an opportunity to reach out to and welcome new believers.
Like Ananias and the early church, we need to be prepared to embrace people who are new to the faith. We have to recognize God’s power in creating a new life in Christ. From terrorists to our neighbors across the street, God can change the heart of any man, woman, or child to live for and love like Jesus. So we must be prepared to reach out to and welcome into our church anyone in our life.
Jesse Wisnewski is the senior content marketer at Tithe.ly, a provider of mobile giving and online giving solutions for churches and ministries around the world. Jesse is also the founder of Stillhouse Marketing, a content marketing agency in Nashville. He lives outside of Nashville, TN with his wife and kids.