Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jesus ruined my life

There are surely few characters so fascinating in all the Bible as Paul. What must life have been like for this man before he met the Lord? Well, he tells us. He had every worldly benefit going. A Hebrew of Hebrews from the tribe of Benjamin. He was circumcised on the eighth day. No one, he tells his Philippian readers has more reason to boast than he.

So we have something of a picture of the man who set off along the Damascus Road on the day he was to be saved. He felt safe in his position as a pharisee, and, not only that someone was giving his life to trying to eradicate this weird sect that had emerged, these 'followers of the way' who were perverting the law of God. Things were good for Paul as he mounted his horse and headed for Damascus. But little did he know that things were about to change.

He tells the story near the beginning of the letter to the Galatians, caught up as part of his justification of the divine nature of his ministry. He wasn't called by man, nor does he try to please man, but he was called by God. And what a calling it is, and what a purpose he now has. The end of Galatians 1:16 tells us. He is now called to 'preach Him (Jesus) among the Gentiles'. So not only was Paul's life now about proclaiming this Jesus who he had tried to destroy, he also had to do it amongst the Gentiles, people who we would have crossed the street to avoid on his former life. I guess if he'd been told this the day before his reaction would have been violent and vitriolic.

Jesus had turned Paul's life upside down. Where he was once powerful and rich he was now blind, poor and homeless. Where he used to have the respect of his peers and followers, he would probably now become a byword for insanity. Jesus stripped away from him everything he had when Paul was saved.

Are we so timid to call people to this today? Is our language more about comfort, and benefit and personal relationships and 'filling a God shaped hole'? Do we tell people that knowing Jesus will, or at least should ruin them for anything else, even ruin their lives. You used to have a good job, money and respect, and now you might spend your life tramping from village to village on the subcontinent and in constant danger. For Paul, coming to Christ meant losing everything, but at the same time it meant gaining everything. Paul surely would have agreed with Jim Elliot who said 'he is no fool who gives up what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose'. Paul lost everything on the Damascus road, but as he lost everything he had, he gained more than he ever could have dreamed. Coming to Christ ruined his life, but it also gave him life, a life not wasted, a life saturated with joy and Gospel defence and proclamation...

1 comment:

Karl said...

Ok! Thank you for this. Very beautiful post. I wish I had Paul's vision and courage. Instead, Jesus is slowly, agonizingly breaking me down. Oh well.