The idea of a person who adamantly opposes a movement and then becomes one of its strongest supporters, is a pretty benign concept to someone that understands a little about psychology. As children of God, we all struggle against the one thing that will save us, thereby creating a cause for us to act upon. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, and he was speaking to Christians in Rome after his conversion. However, I believe the same contradiction existed in him from the beginning, as it does in all of us. “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Romans 7:19 NABRE) The cause that most of us act upon is selfishness, but if we stopped to think about what really brings us happiness and joy, it is selflessness. If we did the things that bring joy to others, rather than to ourselves, we would be truly full of joy, but too often we choose the things that would make us temporarily happy.
Paul, when he was known as Saul, went on a mission to attack the one thing that could save him, the Christian movement. The movement that was created by God to disciple the world with people that were uniquely his own through their relationship with his son, Jesus. In his case, as we saw in the retelling of the murder of Stephen, he was not always out front in the attack against the Christian movement, but he chose to be out front to stand up for the cause that he believed was just. “They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:58) In his case, he had formed his life’s mission around the destruction of a people that were in opposition to his faith. God knew the fortitude that was won in Paul through years of training in the Jewish faith, and dramatically changed his path to bring him to a new understanding and leave the path of wickedness behind, because God knew that movement needed his unique gifts.
From Jason to John…For me, God knew the weakness and lack of obedience that had been won through years of neglect and lack of discipline, so it was a slow and deliberate conversion over the past 25 years. I think this is the case for most Christians today, God chooses to make our conversions much more deliberate and gives us the opportunity to choose to follow at every step. However, as I spoke with a current college age convert yesterday, I realized that the blinding conversion of Paul may be becoming more necessary to keep new disciples from getting lost in this self-obsessed culture that is so pervasive. My conversion was not like Paul’s or Saul’s, but I can definitely see that God has been using the events in my life to make me aware that there is another mission for me that is beyond what the world would offer. A mission that calls me by name to do a work that I would not choose for myself, but I follow because I know it is God’s will.