At that time, the church in Jerusalem began to be subjected to vicious harassment. Everyone except the apostles was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2 Some pious men buried Stephen and deeply grieved over him. 3 Saul began to wreak havoc against the church. Entering one house after another, he would drag off both men and women and throw them into prison. 4 Those who had been scattered moved on, preaching the good news along the way. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and began to preach Christ to them. 6 The crowds were united by what they heard Philip say and the signs they saw him perform, and they gave him their undivided attention. 7 With loud shrieks, unclean spirits came out of many people, and many who were paralyzed or crippled were healed. 8 There was great rejoicing in that city. (Acts 8:1b-8, CEB)
Saul was wreaking havoc. Saul. The person who is also known as Paul, the greatest evangelist the church has seen, was arresting people for being followers of the way. For following Jesus and preaching the good news Paul would soon be preaching, he was dragging people out of their homes and hauling them off to jail for not believing the same way he did.
We are lucky in the United States to live in a place where it is free to follow whatever religion you choose, without worrying about going to jail or being killed for having that faith. But around the world, and even here, people are called out for their faith. Some places make part of your religion illegal. Just recently Sweden made it illegal for women to cover their heads, which is a necessary part of the Muslim faith. Now they didn’t outlaw all forms of head coverings but did say certain types of religious head coverings were not allowed. This is the same thing we see above.
Who are we to judge and persecute someone for the way they believe, or what they believe? We are to love and do as Philip did, share the good news of Christ and the love of God. And that love will change hearts and minds. We are not supposed to change people, we are supposed to love people.
Love People. Love God.