'On the road, Saul was blinded by a bright light. He then heard a voice say,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me.?”' (Acts 9:4b)
Sitting on my screened porch with a steady rain falling outside, I found myself utterly convicted when I realized I had emotionally harmed a friend. Tears began to fall in time with the rain. Inadvertently and unintentionally I had inflicted my own hurt on the friend. It was retaliation for the way I felt I had been wronged by them.
There was a part of me that wanted them to feel the hurt in the same way that I had been hurt. Continuous jabs of spiteful words were thrown at my friend, and I knew for certain the words had hit their mark. Words that dealt a blow I wish I could have rescinded.
The conviction came when I read my daily devotional. The story of Saul on the road heading to Damascus was the culprit. It is a story in the New Testament, the Book of Acts 9, from the first century in the Mediterranean area. This is the time after the resurrection of Jesus. Christians are being persecuted all across the Roman Empire.
Saul had been given permission to round up the “Followers of the Way,” or the followers of Jesus. He had letters from the authorities that allowed him to arrest anyone preaching and teaching about Jesus. Saul and his attendants were traveling to Damascus where they knew there were many followers.
On the road, Saul was blinded by a bright light. He then heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me.?” (Acts 9:4b)
You might be wondering how this convicted me. Well, the message Saul hears is from Jesus who is persecuted by Saul. Not directly, I might add, but because Saul is persecuting anyone who was following Jesus.
Saul is then led into Damascus where he stays for 3 days, blinded and vulnerable. He was ministered to by Ananias. On the third day, scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. Saul’s hatred toward Jesus was gone, and he began preaching and teaching about Jesus. A true transformation for Saul that eventually caused a name change to Paul.
As I reread Acts 9, I realized that I had been harboring angry feelings toward my friend. That I had been persecuting them over and over again. In the reading, I remembered they are a beloved child of God, and they deserve to be forgiven. And they don’t deserve the hurtful words I had been spewing at them over and over.
Then the Three Simple Rules came to mind: “Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.” These rules were inspired by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Christian movement in England. These are rules I have tried to live my life by in every avenue I find myself.
Thinking about what these words really meant, I found myself even more convicted. I found adhering to these three rules is anything but simple.
It turns out I have NOT been doing a very good job of living by these rules with this friend. In fact, with my own wounds driving my actions, I had been inflicting harm on my friend. It was time to stop the behavior and to apologize.
You see, it takes intentionality at the start of each day to choose to do no harm, and then to seek to do good by others. It means moving beyond the hurts I have encountered in my past, and seeing the goodness that still exists in those whom I encounter.
I have been diligently trying to behave differently. To compromise with a huge dose of compassion instead of always striving to get my own way. It means I pause before speaking, texting, or taking action so that I put forth my best self, so that I may honor the other person. It means I deal with my own pain, and try very hard not to inflict it back on the ones whom I feel have hurt me.
Yet I know I am flawed and weak, and I can not do this hard thing by myself. To respond in a loving way can happen best when I call on God for help. The third rule, “Stay in love with God,” can be the optimal path to take toward honoring others in my work, with my friends, and in my home life.
The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes this: “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-38, CEB)
Staying in love with God or staying always connected to God provides the foundation for living out the Three Simple Rules. When I seek God each day through prayer and listening, I am poised to live a life of doing no harm and seeking to do good.
Take a moment to assess yourself against the Three Simple Rules.
Do no harm. Are your actions such that no harm is being done in ALL of your interactions and daily practices? If the answer is no, what steps can you take to remedy the situation?
Do good. Are the things you do each day, and your encounters with the people you meet, all about doing that which is good or the best you are able to muster? If the answer is no, how can you intentionally do good things as your day plays out?
Stay in love with God. Like any healthy friendship, marriage, or relationship, are you attending to your relationship with God through prayer, Bible study, active listening, and worship? If the answer is no, what one practice can you add to the start of every day?
Once you have determined how well you are doing with the Three Simple Rules, I invite you to make a plan to seek to trust God’s guidance each and every day, and in every situation. Be alert that you may need to try even harder on the days that you are carrying extra baggage from the other challenges in your lives.
God wants the best for us. God wants us to thrive with others more than just survive. God wants to make something beautiful out of the challenges that we have endured. God wants us to be our best selves with others.
You are encouraged to start each day with these three rules in mind. You just might witness what a positive difference your intentionality can make.
Loving Creator, I know You want me to be my best self. Help me to do no harm with my friends, family, and in my work. So too, show me how to do good where I have been doing harm. I love You, Lord, and want to honor You in the ways I live my life. I pray I can always stay connected to You because You dwell in the deepest places of my heart. Nudge me always in a loving direction. Amen.
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