They heard the whispers of genocide from the lips of the angel, waking them from a deep sleep. How frantically would you pack if your baby had a price on His head?
I wonder how much money they had on hand. I wonder if they got to kiss their parents goodbye. I wonder if Mary cried as she looked back at the room where her Son had taken His first steps and where she had first shared a bed with her husband. I wonder if she stepped out of the door, clinging to this God-child, and paused under the doorframe unsure of where to go.
As they fled into the lonely stillness of that night, the God of the Universe became a refugee.
And I wonder.
If I had been an Egyptian, watching these desert-dirty refugees stumble into my town, what would I have done? Would I have drawn the curtains or fed the mother of God? Would I have muttered “it’s such a shame” or would I have offered my bed to the parents of the Messiah? Would I have tossed out a self-ameliorating $20 or would I have emptied myself at the feet of God?
What would I give Him now? What do I believe He is worth?
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
He imprisoned them. He killed them. He hunted them. They knew his name, tracked his movements, and went into hiding when he came to town. There’s no downplaying his violence; Saul was proud of his “zealousness” about slaughtering the Christians.
Until he encountered the face of the gentle, terrifying Jesus and was undone. Until the Spirit touched his hands, and he penned the very Words of God.
How quickly we forget that one the world’s greatest exegetes was once a violent extremist.
And I wonder.
If I had been Ananias, when God instructed me to welcome this murdering terrorist, would I have listened? And if I had gone to see this infamous man, would I have carried a gun? Would I have wanted to kill him? When God told me that He was passionate about this murderer’s soul, would I have been too? Or would I have returned evil with evil, violence with violence?
Would I have wished him dead, or redeemed?
“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Sadly, this story doesn’t come from the pages of the Bible; it comes a little closer to home. My home.
All I have to do is flip on the news; I see exploding buildings, men in masks, and the faces of wailing mothers who might be me. I imagine getting the call – knowing that the seat at the table will forever be empty. So I close my doors tight and whisper prayers from the safety of my locked bedroom.
Safety and self-preservation may be powerful friends but they shame me; they shame me as I sit at the feet of the very One who bled out His life in total defiance of safety and self-preservation. How can I ignore His plea to “feed my sheep” when He had just offered His own body as bread? How do I cling to my horror when He whispers that His perfect love casts out fear?
There are no easy answers. There are no perfect politics. But there is a God who looks us in the eye, pries our fingers from our false security, and invites us to dangerous love.
“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.'”