"Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him...so that if he found any belonging to the Way...he might bring them bound to Jerusalem...and as he was traveling, it happened..." Acts 9:1-3
Saul, his name was rooted in the Hebrew word that meant "asked for" or "prayed for." It was a popular name, and many parents named their sons, after the first king of Israel, who lost his life defending Israel from her enemies. Saul was obsessed with destroying the followers of Jesus, and he went out of his way to murder anyone who believed He was "The Way, The Truth, and The Life."
NOTE TO SELF: When your enemies can clearly state what you believe, and still hate you for it, wear their hatred like a badge of honor.
Saul didn't frame the debate, between his views and those of the believers of Jesus. He released his hate against them. Hate never debates. Hate has no other mission, but to annihilate. The hatred for Jesus is ancient, and is rooted in the soul of hell and the heart of Satan. He is jealous of His Person, and His position, and intends to wipe His name from the lips of believers and the pages of history.
There is a misconception that hatred can be dispelled, by explaining more clearly the differences, between the dispensers of hate, and their victims. The pressure seems to always be on the victims, to explain themselves. If they would just not be so offensive, then there would be no offense generated against them. The Rodney King School of Theology 's vision statement is really an insipid question, "Can't we all just get along?" Not likely.
Jesus said, "I AM the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me." John 14:6
Preachers who believe there is more than one way to a right relationship with God, have lost their way, and cannot be considered preachers of The Way. Saul knew the difference. He had no interest in walking across the street to break up a meeting of people who had no idea where they were going, but he would walk or ride a slow horse to Syria, to destroy anyone who knew Jesus was The Way. Hate still will.
Look at the strategy. "Breathing threats, and murder" escalated into a desire, to put muscle behind the breath, and carry out the murder. This is how it always begins. When intimidation doesn't silence the preachers of The Way, then the next step is annihilation. Remember, hate doesn't debate. Hate annihilates. Hate doesn't require a clearer explanation. It is clearly intent on one thing, the annihilation of those who get in their way. Don't be surprised if diversity and tolerance has no love lost for The Way, The Truth and The Life.
The strategy of the enemy has never changed, because it is very successful. Preachers who muzzle themselves, at the first sign of intimidation, may not die a martyr's death. Their fate is worth than death. They become death-defying, but they fail to be life-giving.
Saul hated the preachers and the people of The Way, because they wouldn't stop talking about Jesus. What's a preacher to do, when what he is called to preach, stirs up hatred? PREACH JESUS, anyway.
Preaching is a calling, not a career. Those who have a calling, will deliver a message. Those who have a career, are going to try and protect it. Some will do it, by changing the message. Others will study it, like a dead frog in a laboratory setting, until it is so dissected, and the frog hair sliced so fine, that there is no jump left in the frog. They end up talking The Gospel to death, and robbing it of the life-giving power of The Risen Christ.
I repeat. PREACH JESUS! It drove Saul crazy, and it will be like a bone in the throat and the rock in the shoe, to anyone who is heading in the wrong direction. Preachers care called to STAND UP! SPEAK UP! and never shut up, until their voices are snuffed out, like flames in the night, by those who can't stand to hear name of Jesus.
Saul exposed himself, by his hatred for those who follow Jesus. People still do. It simply doesn't matter, if people gag every time His name is spoken, or if they stumble over His name, when they choose the wrong way to God. Jesus is The Way.
Pray your way to the filling of The Spirit, and the courage to PREACH JESUS! Your preaching will improve, and your opposition will be intense, but...
TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!