It is Hard for You "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you, this kicking against the goads." Acts 26:14 We often think that God is very angry with us. We are willing enough to accept that the anger is justified, still, it also seems that God is easily ticked off and very exacting in His punishment, though we are told that He is merciful. But in the above quotation from Paul's own testimony to his conversion, I think we get a glimpse of God's perspective. Paul, who was formerly known as "Saul", had spent his time before his conversion, arresting Christians, forcing them to blaspheme, and even killing them. Yet, when Paul comes face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus does indeed confront Paul asking "Why are you persecuting Me?", but He also quickly turns the situation around to focus in on Paul's own weakness: "It is hard for you to kick against the goads." From our perspective, Paul had been the one in the apparent position of power, being granted the authority of the chief priests and the authority that comes by wielding a sword. Jesus and His people (Jesus seems to make no distinction between the two here saying "why are you persecuting Me?") are the helpless ones being tortured, imprisoned, and killed. Yet, Jesus says to Paul that this life is "hard for you". Jesus quickly moves away from what He is suffering and puts His finger on Paul's own suffering. "This life, this anger, is hard for you, Paul." Jesus seems to be saying, "Put it down. Take MY yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your soul." Paul surrenders and a great Apostle is born! And it seems that the authority and power has switched hands. Jesus was in the position of strength and he blessed Paul by giving him what he really needed and wanted. The Psalmist said of God: "His anger is but for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime."
Paul himself would write that the greatest thing in the world is "love". This sounds so cliche, especially because the Western world has absolutely murdered the Word "love" by our cheap and liberal use of it. But it really is more powerful than the grave or any other power in all creation. God has wrath, but His compassion is so much greater. There are many other Saul's who are ready to become Paul's if we would be willing to have compassion on them rather than focusing on the pain that they are causing us. This is not meant to belittle the evil done in the world. But there is an old adage that says "Hurt people, hurt people", and we would do well to remember that when we are confronted by our enemies. May the Lord help us to love like Jesus, whose anger is only for a moment but who's mercies are new every morning! It is hard for the world to kick against the goads. Lord, give us your compassion!