The Conversion of Saul

The Bible is full of amazing, miraculous events and one that I've been contemplating lately is the story of how Saul went from persecuting the church to preaching the Gospel.

Saul as Persecutor

Saul approved the martyrdom of Steven, the very first one to lose his life for believing in Jesus. Then Saul used his connections and influence to round up more disciples and imprison them. His rampage had him heading towards Damascus to do more of the same.

A Supernatural Encounter

Jesus Himself met him on the road. A blinding flash of light and a question: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

From that moment on Saul's life would never be the same. Jesus told him to continue on to Damascus and then he'd be told what to do. The first thing he did once he arrived was pray and fast for three days in darkness.

Total Conversion

A faithful believer named Ananias was sent by God to pray over Saul so that he would regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. When his sight was restored Saul (who became known as the Apostle Paul) was baptized and within days he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying “He is the Son of God.”

Saul (now Paul) as Witness

Paul went on to make many journeys where he preached to many people and catalyzed the formation of many of the early churches. Much of the New Testament is a collection of various letters he wrote to his converts.

Paul himself was martyred for his faith, just like Steven and the others he'd originally persecuted. One of the most courageous things Paul ever did was insist on going back to Jerusalem following the leading of the Holy Spirit even though he knew persecution and likely death awaited him there.

I can't help but marvel at the complete transformation in one man's life. To go from hating to loving, killing believers to preaching the Gospel, running away from Jesus as fast as he could to falling so deeply in love with Him that he wanted to be like Him in everything–even His suffering and death.

Imitating Jesus in Every Way

I love reading the words of St. Paul. I'm always struck by how passionate and tender Paul was as he penned the words. I am struck by how much he loved Jesus and how deeply he cared about the people he was writing to.

“For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain… For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him… I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like Him in His death…”

Modern Day Saint Pauls Waiting for their Conversions

The story of Paul's conversion gives me hope for today, for I know that as I write this there are well connected and influential people in this world who do great evil–they oppress, they persecute, they lie in wait to trap others, they steal, kill and destroy. They are involved in awful crimes like child trafficking; they persecute Christians and other minorities around the world; they plot to undermine anything good and beautiful in this world. They have power and use it for evil even if they are convinced they are doing good.

And any one of them could be an Apostle Paul just waiting to encounter Jesus.

Do I believe in the power of God to actually transform people–as in turn them from the vilest of sinners to the most holy of saints? I know I definitely want to believe. I think a lot of us hesitate to believe fully in the ability of God to truly transform lives and so we tend to be content with lives going on as before with a few spiritual things tacked on. But God is about turning persecutors into apostles, just like He did with Paul.

Perhaps this is why Jesus asks us to pray for our persecutors. Even if they aren't personally persecuting me (which none of them are) I can still pray for them. Next time I learn about some evil person doing something horrible I am going to ask Jesus to grace him with a conversion as amazing and thorough as Saul's conversion. I can't think of any way to halt or even slow down the rampage of evil more effective than conversion.


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