Friday, January 25, 2008

Paul's Conversion

In the Christian calendar, today is the day we celebrate the conversion of Paul. Paul remained a Jew for all of his life, but when he was embraced by Christ- he took the message of Jesus to the world in a new way and a new light. Here's how Frederick Buechner describes the call of Saul of Tarsus:

He was still in charge of a Pharisee goon squad in those days and was hell-bent for Damascus to round up some trouble-making Christians and bring them to justice. And it happened. It was about noon when he was knocked flat by a blaze of ligt that made the sun look like a forty-watt bulb, and out of the light came a voice that called him by his Hebrew name twice. "Saul," it said, and then again, "Saul. Why are you out to get me?" and when he pulled himself together enough to ask who it was he had the honor of addressing, what he heard to his horror was, "I'm Jesus of Nazareth, the one you're out to get." We're not told how long he lay there in the dust then, but it must have seemed at least six months. If Jesus of Nazareth had what it took to burst out of the grave like a guided missile, he thought, then he could polish off one bowlegged Christian-baiter without even noticing it, and Paul waited for the axe to fall. Only it wasn't an axe that fell. "Those boys in Damascus," Jesus said. "Don't fight them, join them. I want you on my side, " and Paul never in his life forgot the sheer lunatic joy and astonishment of that moment. He was blind as a bat for three days afterwards, but he made it to Damascus anyway and was baptized on the spot. He was never the same again, and neither, in a way, was the world (Acts 9:1-6, 22:4-16, 26:9-18). (Peculiar Treasures, 146)

It is difficult to imagine what the Bible would be like without Paul's letters. Our understanding of grace and much of the language we use to describe God's actions toward us is straight from his pen (via translators, redactors and years). Yet could it be more appropriate that the man whose conscience was burdened with the knowledge of years of persecuted Christians (at his hands) could inspire, comfort and teach generations of believers.

It is good to remember that if God can, did and does use Paul... you too are being used for the good of the kingdom. And you've qualified for that job through Christ's resume. For your thoughts today, here are some of the most inspired words that flowed from Paul's stylus, words that he had reason and hope to believe in with his whole heart:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

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