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Humility and Forgiveness on Straight Street

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Acts 9:10–19

The example of Ananias shows us what an impact we can have when we simply live by faith and willingly forgive and accept others. He appears only briefly in Scripture, but his life offers some important lessons for each of us.


Most of the world knows of Isaac Newton, the great scientist who formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, discovered that light is a combination of seven colors, invented the reflecting telescope, and much more. Today he is a household name in the scientific world.

Most people do not know that if it were not for another scientist by the name of Edmund Halley, the world might never have benefited from the work of Isaac Newton. It was Halley who challenged and mentored Isaac through his original ideas. Halley corrected Newton’s mathematical errors and coaxed a hesitant Newton into publishing his discoveries. Halley even edited those early manuscripts and personally financed the first edition of Newton’s great work on mathematical principles.

Newton began to reap the rewards of scientific prominence and prestige, while Halley remained in the shadows, receiving little credit. He didn’t care; his mission in life was to simply advance the field of science. Historians refer to it as one of the most selfless examples in the academic world.

Our Wisdom Journey features a man who reminds me of Edmund Halley. It is an account of one man who launched the ministry of another man but remained himself in the shadows. The church knows much about the apostle Paul. Many, however, are not even aware of the selfless actions of another leader in the church, a man named Ananias.

Saul, the zealous persecutor of the church, has been converted to Christ. He was going to Damascus to arrest Christians but was effectively arrested by the Lord. Now physically blinded by the glorious light of the resurrected Savior and mentally stunned with the reality that Jesus is the Son of God, he has come to Damascus. And there he has been waiting for three days to be told what to do next.

While Saul is waiting for further instructions, the Lord begins working in the heart and life of a church leader who, according to Acts 22:12, is a man of godly character. We pick up the account here in Acts chapter 9:

There was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” (verses 10-12)

Notice that the Lord does not tell Ananias anything about Saul’s conversion. Ananias only experiences the chill of hearing the name of the church’s archenemy, Saul of Tarsus.

How is that for a difficult assignment? Getting into the same room with Saul could be a death sentence.

I love that the Bible does not polish up what happens next. Ananias’s initial response sounds exactly like something I would say: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem” (verse 13).

He is reminding the Lord of how bad this man has been—as if the Lord does not already know! And now, as Ananias says here in verse 14, “He has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”

Ananias is thinking what I would be thinking. You can imagine him saying, “Lord, You said he is blind and can’t see. That sounds like an answer to prayer to me! If he can’t see us, he can’t catch us! That is great news!”

The Lord patiently responds:

“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (verses 15-16)

Here is what is happening: Ananias knows everything about Saul’s past; God knows everything about Saul’s future. Ananias knows Saul was the great persecutor of believers; God sees him as the great preacher of the gospel. Ananias sees a murderer; God sees a redeemed messenger.

So, for Ananias to carry out God’s assignment—which he does—he has to act in faith, believing God knows more about Saul than he does. Ananias is a great example of faith.

But perhaps even more importantly, Ananias becomes a great example of forgiveness. The Lord is at least hinting to him that Saul has been changed—and forgiven. God is asking Ananias to do nothing less than act as God’s agent of forgiveness by revealing, first, God’s own forgiveness of Saul.

In fact, back in verse 11, God tells Ananias that Paul is praying. That was a clue. Pharisees did their praying in public, where they could be seen, not in private. Furthermore, they did not normally hold prayer meetings in houses, but the Lord tells Ananias that Saul is praying in the house of a man who lives over on Straight Street. To this day, this is still the main road running west to east through Damascus.

God is saying, “Ananias, he is over there praying for guidance. He is a changed man.”

So, Ananias travels down Straight Street to welcome Saul into the family of believers. We need more travelers on Straight Street today, people who will leave anger and bitterness behind and humbly, graciously extend forgiveness to others.

Verse 17 describes the moment they meet:

So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Don’t miss that “Brother Saul.” Once enemies, they are now brothers.

This address indicates Ananias and the believers he represents have forgiven Saul, just as God has forgiven them. He then tells Saul to be filled, controlled, by the Holy Spirit who has come to indwell him as a believer.

No doubt as a sign of Saul’s acceptance into the family, “something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened” (verses 18-19).

Following Ananias’s great example of acceptance, we read of Saul’s wonderful acceptance by the church family in Damascus. Verse 19 says, “For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.”

What an incredible turn of events! They had heard Saul was heading their way and undoubtedly were overwhelmed with fear and concern; but the one who had come to capture them is now one of them! Saul is surely overwhelmed by their love and acceptance. People he came to imprison and torture are sharing their meals and their joy in Christ with him. Former enemies have now become family members.

As soon as Saul has an opportunity, we are told in verse 20 that he “proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”

Because of the humility and support of Ananias, Saul, who will become better known by his Roman name Paul, will take the gospel throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond. Indeed, the world will never be the same.

Edmund Halley introduced the world to Isaac Newton, yet he is still unknown to most people. If his name is familiar at all, it is probably because of the comet named after him—a comet he accurately calculated to appear about every seventy-five years before disappearing again into the vastness of space.

Halley was not concerned about gaining fame or glory for himself, so like that comet, he quietly disappeared into the night. Ananias, too, will soon disappear—into the shadows of Paul’s prominent ministry. Yet he leaves behind an example of humility and courage for every Christian.

Let’s care more about the gospel than our own glory—for the sake of the glory of our Risen Savior and Lord.

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