|"Saul Stricken" - Rubens|
TO CHEW ON: “But when it pleased God … to reveal His Son to me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” - Galatians 1:15-17
Today the church celebrates the conversion of the Apostle Paul (first known as Saul). The story of his miraculous turnaround is in Acts 9:1-21.
Those of us who have switched careers or taken on new roles can begin to appreciate what a whiplash experience Paul’s conversion must have been to him. His whole world had been rocked. Everything he had staked his life on as a Jewish leader and Pharisee was now in question. He had been an expert but now he was a baby, a complete novice in this new belief system. All he knew was that Jesus was real, had knocked him off his feet, spoken to him, called him, made him helplessly blind, then sent someone to pray for him.
Our reading in Galatians talks about a three-year silent period in Paul’s life (Galatians 1:17,18). During this time he went off somewhere secluded—Arabia—and received divine instruction. We could probably put this period of time between Acts 9:21 (where news of his conversion sparked amazement) and Acts 9:22 (where we see him confounding the Jews in his hometown of Damascus).
I think there is something we can learn here about the timing of placing people in ministry (and going into ministry ourselves). When a big name celebrity comes to faith, the temptation is to schedule them on the rounds of radio and TV shows and display them on a pedestal as Christianity’s latest trophy and voice.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t give popular personalities a platform to share their coming-to-faith stories. But I do think we should be wary of looking to them as experts in the Christian faith.
If even the brilliant and theologically savvy Apostle Paul needed three years of Jesus School, how much more a movie, pop music, or sports personality needs a little time in Arabia before we lean on them for teaching and direction.
PRAYER: Dear Father, help me not to be star-struck by new Christians who have been successful by the world’s standards. Please give me discernment about who I allow to speak into my life and influence me. Amen.
MORE: The Conversion of St. Paul
Today the church celebrates Conversion of St. Paul. Here is the collect prayer that begins the day’s liturgy:
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.