The Influence of an ‘Unseen Character’
10Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12and 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.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized.
Ananias, I see you.
Literary scholars might try to call you an “unseen character” since you only had a short cameo in the book of Acts, chapter 9, and we don’t know you well, even though your influence has been immeasurable.
Or maybe some promote you to the title “supporting role.”
We shouldn’t push you to the background of the story of the church.
You changed the course of history, Ananias.
When you heard God’s calling to you to go to the person who was seeking to kill you, you must have wanted to run away like Jonah.
But you didn’t even say “no.”
Well, you did understandably ask for some logistical clarification—wanting to be sure that you and God were talking about the same Saul. Then, once you understood the assignment, you did it!
You actually went.
When you found him, you called Saul, “Brother,” as if you and he were friends.
What you did, what you said, the courage and grace you showed—that’s who the church is called to be.
Our culture today is divided, still.
And there are chasms in our relationships that feel too great to ever cross.
We struggle to have meaningful conversations with people with whom we disagree, even when they are family!
We fight with each other online, on text messages, in public, in traffic, at work. We argue about politics, science, history, education, faith, war, and taxes.
These are ancient controversies that have been given new life with names like Critical Race Theory and with the assistance of social media and YouTube.
And even while we feel — or are — completely justified in our opinions, it doesn’t change the fact that “they” have their firm convictions as well.
These stressors have been magnified with the collective stress of the current pandemic, and our relationships feel irreparable.
There is so much tension in the air everywhere we go, even in our homes.
It puts us on the defensive all the time. Ananias, how did you do it?
How did you set down your honor and pride to approach the very person seeking to do you harm?
How did you lay your hands on him with the hope that he would be healed from his well-deserved blindness?
How did you call him “Brother”?
I see people in the church following your example all the time.
There are pastors who have been wounded by petty insults and attacks of condescending church members and yet still show up to their aggressors’ homes, graciously offering prayer and care when a family member dies.
There are church leaders who work tirelessly and faithfully to build up a children’s program, while fielding complaints that there are no children in the church.
There are Christians who hopefully and cheerfully gather for church potlucks and pass the peace to fellow believers who have shown them no welcome or peace.
There are disciples of Jesus, just like you, out there, doing their best to follow God’s call, even if it means showing grace without reciprocation.
We have seen you, Ananias.
You are not an unseen character in our story.
You do not belong in the background.
Thank you for calling Saul your brother, before he was willing to do the same to you.
Thank you for giving us the courage to follow the Lord’s call, even when it comes with great risks.
Thank you for teaching us humility to show grace, even to our enemies.
Ananias, thank you for showing us who Jesus has called us to be.
The Rev. Catherine Cavazos Renken has served as the Pastor of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church in Kennesaw, Ga., since September 2011 and as the Moderator of Cherokee Presbytery since February 2022. She received an M.Div from Columbia Theological Seminary and B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Arlington. She has served churches in Brentwood, Tenn; North Palm Beach, Fla., and Fort Worth, Texas. Catherine volunteers as a Chaplain for the Cobb County Police and is passionate about supporting organizations that fight human trafficking. Catherine is married to Brad, who is the owner of Hearthstone Luxury Pools + Outdoors, and she is the beaming mother of two young children.