Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why I Love St. Paul's Story

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. If you aren't familiar with the stories about St. Paul, in a tiny nutshell: he was a devout Jew who was intent on destroying the new movement of those who believed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah for whom they had been waiting. He had people imprisoned - and killed - because he was so passionate about his faith in Judaism as it was. He thought that Christians were heretics.

The scriptural passages for today are deeply inspiring, showing a life of "righteousness" and "success" which was suddenly turned around due to the revelation of a deeper truth. Paul received an understanding which reversed the way he served God. He had originally believed he was serving God by persecuting Christians, but Jesus revealed to him that this was not His Way. Paul saw the light - was in fact temporarily blinded by it - heard that voice, asked what he was to do, and obeyed. He was baptized and cured of his blindness by a Christian, and immediately joined their group.

What followed this conversion - Paul's decision to live the life that Jesus offered to him - is responsible for much of what we know as the Letters to the Churches in the New Testament. God chose a murderous, legalistic zealot, showed him a blinding light, and spoke to him in a voice which he could hear. In so doing, He ended the murderous behavior and sent that light into "the world" as it was known then, and the larger world, which we know now.

You can read Paul's own account of his conversion experience, and a third-person account, here:
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012512.cfm

This is not to say that Christianity is the only way to live, or that Jewish people are bad or wrong.
What it does say to me is that legalism, inflexibility, "us vs. them" or self-righteous attitudes can lead us to do the wrong things for what we sincerely believe are the right reasons.

It gives me hope for myself, that my feeble, backsliding behavior, mistakes and misunderstandings will not - cannot - stop the work that God has for me to do. Thanks be to God!

"Rest in this: it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call, or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you... The sound of 'gentle stillness' after all the thunder and wind have passed will be the ultimate Word from God." - Jim Elliot

2 comments:

Karen said...

I loved your recap of Paul's conversion--surely one of the most dramatic in human history. He gives all of us wayward sinners hope for grace, transformation, and purpose. You are a good disciple, Karen.
Love you, Karen EAST

Allegra Smith said...

Ah, Paul. Isn't a little bit of Paul in all of us whether we are conscious of it or not? Even some of us "reformed" psychologists by the way of Jung? :)

There is hope everywhere in this abundant Universe of ours and it doesn't really matter what name we give to our beliefs, that will keep us not only in Hope but also in Love and true understanding of what it is to truly accept a gift in the spirit in which is given.

Much love to you and we are planning a day trip up to Seattle staying overnight at Pauline and Richard's and maybe you and my boyfriend can join us for dinner?