Acts 22:4 I persecuted the followers of the Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison
Paul was in some trouble. After sharing the gospel, a riot started and he was arrested. It was quite the scene… pushing, shoving, yelling, and shouting. Anger flowed freely from their lips as they shouted, “away with him!” But rather than quietly accepting his chains, Paul asked to speak to the crowd. Even though he had just been arrested, he was going to give it one more shot. He would try once more to share the gospel with a lost and dying world. As a man being persecuted, his opening statement begins with this: “I’ve walked in your shoes. I used to persecute people, too.”
It’s something subtle that we forget about as Christians – identifying with those we are trying to reach. You see, we all have a past. We have all made mistakes. And if we are growing, we are probably doing our best to put that past behind us. We shouldn’t be looking over our shoulders, we should be looking ahead. Paul said to focus our eyes on the prize set before us, to look upon the finish line rather than the starting blocks. As we grow in the Lord and become “mature,” we hopefully stop doing some of the things we used to. Maybe we stop swearing and drinking, judging and hating, cheating and lying. And now in all of our maturity, we feel it is our duty to let the world know that those things offend us. We hold them to our standard before we tell them about the Standard Bearer.
Here’s a better place to start: I’ve walked in your shoes. That’s what Paul did. He told them that he’d been where they are. When you do that, you tear down walls and open plugged ears. When people see that you are flawed and have struggled through their struggle, they are more likely to listen. It’s not that you should start focusing or romanticizing your past sin. No, instead use the stories of your past as a tool to bring people into an abundant future! Find common ground and identify with those you are trying to reach. You might just find that you’ve walked in their shoes. And if you’ll remember that, they might just someday walk in yours.
*Challenge: Think about someone you are trying to reach. Can you find an area of life where you’ve walked in their shoes? If so, ask God how you can bring hope to the very situation you have walked through yourself.