An Extremist Transformed, Day 13
Today’s reading is drawn from Galatians 1:13-17.
Paul sets up his message to the Galatians by recounting his dramatic meeting with Christ on the road to Damascus and his subsequent conversion (Acts 9:1–30). In those long hours he must have been under deep emotional strain. He learned that the reports that Jesus had risen were true. He realized he had dedicated his life to killing the Messiah’s followers. It was a life-altering experience for one “advanced in Judaism” and “exceedingly zealous for the traditions” of his fathers (Gal. 1:14).
That may be why God struck Paul with blindness for three days. He had a lot to sort out after meeting the risen Lord. He had to reverse the entire theological basis of his life.
Yet God intended to change more than Paul’s theology. He was determined to transform his extremist view of the world. At the heart of Paul’s intense hatred of the Christian movement might have been a belief that it would destroy Judaism by mixing it with foreign, Gentile elements.
Imagine Paul’s shock when Ananias informed him that God had chosen him to take the message of Christ to none other than the Gentiles (9:15; 22:14, 15; 26:16–18). Such a task would have been unthinkable. Jews like Paul, who were wholly committed to living by all the laws and traditions of Judaism, had nothing to do with Gentiles (10:28). It took years for Paul to reevaluate his perspective and align it with God’s (9:26–30; 22:17–21).
Paul’s dramatic transformation challenges us to examine the prejudices that keep us from living out God’s love for the world. When we find racial and cultural biases where we live, work, or worship, do we challenge that thinking?—or keep silent?—or worse, go along with hatred or even promote it? Can God use us to take His name to people whom we consider outsiders?