The Perfect Love of Ananias – Joel R. Parlour
The Perfect Love of Ananias
“A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother [Paul], receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’” (Acts 22:12-16)
Thank God for Ananias! Who was Ananias of Damascus? Evidently he was a Jew of great report and an outstanding Christian. Ananias was the man Jesus chose and then sent to give Paul life-changing vision both physically and spiritually. “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16) Inspiringly, Paul was called to sacrifice, service, and suffering all at once.
At Jesus’ initial calling, Ananias was not excited about reaching out to Paul. For “[Paul] was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” (Acts 9:1) Certainly Ananias awaited that dreadful knock on his door that could mean the death of him as Paul was out to punish people who claimed to be Christians. Therefore, going to Paul was probably the last thing on his mind. Yet Ananias had a deep conviction to love, as 1 John 4:18 teaches “There is no fear in love. But PERFECT LOVE drives out fear”. Sometimes, for the sake of another’s salvation, Jesus calls us to levels of radicalness that we never imagined. A PERFECT LOVE is radical!
The most astounding and encouraging part of Paul’s conversion is found at the end of Acts 9:19 where immediately after his baptism the Bible says: “[Paul] spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.” Why was this important? These few days were crucial to the success of Paul’s life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It was during these “several days” that Paul, for the first time, would appreciate perfect love and start building lifelong Christian relationships. As Paul would share his conversion for decades to come he always remembered to mention Ananias, his first Christian friend.
In Acts 9:20-22 we read that from “Day 1” the brothers took Paul out into public places for evangelism, and taught him to be effective and fruitful. Consequently, “All those who heard him were astonished” at his preaching. Quickly, within days, “there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him”. (Acts 9:23) It is fair to assume that this probably would not have happened if Paul had not “spent several days with the disciples in Damascus” because Paul fearlessly preached with perfect love.
Very often the great commission of Jesus is misquoted. The focus to “make disciples of all nations, [and baptize] them” is crucial to our plan to evangelize the world, but it certainly does not end there. We cannot forget the second half in which disciples of Jesus are equally commissioned to “teach them to obey everything [Jesus had] commanded.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Truly Ananias and the other disciples in Damascus understood this principle as they wanted to spend time with Paul immediately after he was baptized. As a good friend of mine says: “We cannot dunk people [in the waters of baptism] and then leave them to drown. We must teach them to swim!”
One cannot teach someone else to obey everything Jesus commanded if they do not know everything Jesus commanded. It takes time and effort outside of “discipleship times” to study and research in order to be the best trainer you can possibly be. And even more than that, it takes an immense amount of love to care enough to do so for every individual disciple you train.
In John 13:34-35, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And the Holy Spirit, through Paul, writes in Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Perfect love became one of Paul’s core convictions. Love was visible in his ministry, especially those unconverted. Early on in Paul’s ministry, prior to his many missionary journeys, he practiced this type of love. In fact, his first ministry in Antioch was so effective at loving people that outsiders took note and were reminded of the love of Jesus and thus, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) It is amazing that under Paul’s leadership, which was motivated by Christ’s perfect love, that people started using the term “Christians”, meaning “Little-Christs”, to define the disciples of Jesus. The love of Jesus was evident. Jesus loved someone, who loved someone, who loved Ananias, who loved the brothers in Damascus, who loved Paul, who loved the disciples in Antioch, who loved each other enough to gain such a renowned nickname. Truly, “Love never fails”!
The commands of Jesus boil down to one word: Love. We must, “’Love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind. [That] is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love [our] neighbor as [ourselves].’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Jesus expected obedience from every one of his followers and so should we.
In the mighty Seattle Church we have made a great effort to focus on the love we have for God and each other. Being an internationally diverse fellowship, every one of our disciples are very different from each other. It has been amazing to see our love for each other radiate throughout the city. Even as I was writing this, a young man saw me, my Bible, and a few of the brothers, and walked up to us to say, “I am so glad to see people with Bibles here. Seattle is a very dark place and needs more Christians.” And he is right! (Pray James comes to church to experience the love of Jesus!)
I have been so encouraged to get to know all of the disciples and draw them close to my heart. One sin that was recently exposed in my life was my unwillingness to be close with men in the church, keeping a “professional distance” between me and them. How sinful this is! I am very grateful that Tim Kernan pointed this out so that I could change. Far too often we allow this lack of love to occur in our lives without an effort to change it. As the leader Jesus would walk with his disciples and multiply his love. As Jesus said in John 15:14-15: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Therefore, we need to be best friends in the Kingdom of God. We need to teach each other to obey everything Jesus commanded – revealing a perfect love.
Seattle Church, my prayer is that we can all take on the heart of Ananias and despite any fears we may have that we apply this perfect love to our relationships. Secondly, I pray that like the disciples in Damascus we continue to make time for each other in order to deepen our relationships. Lastly, I pray that as a church we will “have sincere love for each other, [loving] one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22) and that “By this everyone will know that [we] are [Jesus’] disciples.” In obeying Jesus’ commission fully, we can find great comfort in his final promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
We are family… into eternity,
Joel R. Parlour