Imagine President Obama addressing the nation tonight to repudiate his campaign support for the Freedom of Choice Act. Imagine he expresses a change of heart and says he will now support the legislative goals of the pro-life movement. Would that create a firestorm in Washington? Some flip-flops are political suicide.
Or suppose that Rush Limbaugh announces that he has joined the Democratic party and will begin consulting with Senator Harry Reid on all of his future programming choices. There would be howls of disbelief and charges that Limbaugh was playing games, engaging in some kind of phony publicity stunt. Some flip-flops are simply too extreme to believe.
We don't like flip-floppers. By the time CBS News had published a piece it called Kerry's Top Ten Flip-Flops, John Kerry already had been damaged by the charge that he chose his positions by lifting his finger to gauge the political winds. His apparent lack of core convictions was a major factor in his defeat.
Think carefully about these extremes for just a moment. Imagine the outrage, the venom, the confusion, and the loss of respect by deeply committed supporters after a sudden shift in stance on a major issue. Imagine the sudden death of a political career should a politician flip-flop on any core issue of his or her party.
Now consider this: In less time than it takes the news to move from one big story to the next, a man named Saul went from despising Christians to professing Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Saul stood with the murderous crowd and assented to the execution of Stephen, whose only wrong was that he would not recant his faith in Jesus.
Saul organized the imprisonment of Christians, and was on his way to Damascus with orders to bring those who had fled back to Jerusalem for imprisonment and trial.
And on his way to Damascus, everything changed, quite literally in an instant.
As [Saul] was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?"
"Who are You, lord?" Saul asked.
And the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone's voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink. Acts 9:3-9, NLT
I imagine most of us would lose our appetites after such an experience.
On the third day, Ananias, a believer, went to Saul and told him about Jesus.
So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Instantly something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is indeed the Son of God!"
All who heard him were amazed. "Isn't this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus' followers in Jerusalem?" they asked. "And didn't he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?" Acts 9:17-21, NLT
Amazement. Confusion. Disbelief. Anger. Awe. The news of Saul's conversion from Christ-hater to Christ-follower was huge, and so unbelievable that many feared it was a trick. Saul soon changed his name to Paul as a statement about the change that had happened to him, and he went on to become one of the most important of the early Christian leaders, the Apostle to the Gentile world.
It's a remarkable story of a remarkable flip-flop. Saul experienced something so profound that it stopped him in his tracks and set him going in a new direction.
Paul's explanation was that he encountered Jesus, the Son of God, and in that brief encounter everything he once believed was undone.
A few years ago, I was visiting Bowling Green, Kentucky, looking for the National Corvette Museum when I made a turn on a freeway and soon realized that I was heading in the opposite direction from what I wanted. When you're going the wrong way, the only sensible thing to do is make a U-turn.
Maybe that's flip-flopping, or maybe it's just good sense..
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