The Way That Things Are- Acts 26:9-10, 12-14, Proverbs 21:2

I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.

COMMENTARY

I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus
Saul had convinced himself that the world ought to be a particular way. Having been thus convinced he felt very strongly about it. He was very energetic in his opinions, going to great lengths to enforce them upon the world. But no matter how hard he wanted the truth to be the way that he wanted it to be…it just wasn’t.

Why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes
As Saul came to learn, it frankly doesn’t matter how strongly we feel that the world should be a certain way. If it so happens that it isn’t that way then it just isn’t. All of us convince ourselves that what we believe is right in one way or another, and when the actual truths of the world do not align with our expectations we feel pierced, like an ox kicking against the pricks.
We often speak of our desire to “change the world.” Our choice of words here betrays our vain arrogance, because in truth we can do no such thing. We can change society and we can change physical constructs, but the world, nature, and the underlying systems that define the way things are? Never. The rules of heaven, of earth, and of the soul: these simply abide as they are. So yes, we may change society, but we often change it to be contrary to actual truth. And then we fight for what we want but we never get it, because the entire world seems set to frustrate us instead. We are kicking against the pricks and wonder why it hurts.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Personal Example

I spent two years of my life serving a mission in the Caribbean. It was a wonderful opportunity to see various countries and cultures, and be educated by the similarities and differences between them. One trend that stood out to me was how powerful of an influence one’s society could be.

For example, it was not uncommon to hear of individuals changing their religion after moving to another country. Hindus from Guyana might very well become Christians after moving out to the islands, to better fit in with those around them. Similarly, Christians from the islands might become Hindus after moving to Guyana.

I, myself, come from an environment where a single religion makes up the majority of the culture. Many that move here join the religion, and so long as one remains in this bubble it is far easier to maintain that faith. It is very easy to believe that we are the way that we are forever, that we would never embrace a different walk of life. But if you have never lived in a culture where you are a minority, then you do not realize how tempting it is to change yourself just to fit it in.

Our default tendency is to believe whatever we are surrounded by. It is possible to believe more deeply than this, but that requires conscious, intentional discipleship. Whatever your religion is, it may be helpful to ask yourself if you are that religion because it is convenient, or because you actually believe in it. For example, I am a Christian, but is that because I am surrounded by Christians, or do I really and truly believe that Christ is the only way to spiritual perfection. Do I really believe that his teachings will provide me peace and fulfillment that I cannot find in any other place? I do, but I had to do real work to obtain that belief.