The Apostle Paul before his conversion to Christ went about capturing, imprisoning, torturing and killing Christians. He was, by definition, a terrorist.
Then one day as he was going about his terrorist activities, he meets Jesus. This meeting changed his life forever.
His life of hatred, abuse, intolerance, bigotry, privilege and destruction became a life of grace, love, mercy, perseverance and hope.
He exchanged the power of force for the power of freedom. It’s the difference Jesus makes outworked for us to see in the life of Paul. And yet, it would be amiss of us to presume his conversion was all smooth-sailing for Paul. This was not the case.
After Paul’s conversion, he was stoned to the point that he was thought dead, five times he was whipped, each time with 39 lashes, three times he was beaten with rods, three times he was shipwrecked, once spending all day and night in the sea, he was in danger from Jews and Gentiles alike, he was many times weary, sleepless, and hungry.
His conversion to Christ was not easy street.
Often our stories, albeit not nearly as dramatic, are far from easy.
Yet, despite the difficulties he faced, the hallmarks of his life were still grace, love, mercy, perseverance and hope.
I believe that had he not been fully convinced of the Easter story we just celebrated, of the resurrection and of heaven and eternity, he would not have continued in his faith. In fact, he said himself, in 1 Corinthians 15, if there is no resurrection then what he was going through wasn’t worth it. But there was and so it is.
This ex-terrorist not only went on to write half of the New Testament but His writings are full of teaching on how we too can face our less-than-easy life stories.
We see that Paul became a man who was filled with love for those who hated him, he was gracious and merciful to those who had kept him in chains. He had learned to meditate on whatever was true and good. He taught us how to have joy in the midst of pain and trial.
Paul was one who gave thanks in the midst of all things and that thankfulness lead him to thoughtfulness towards others who suffered. He faced the reality of his own death, practically everyday of his adult life, and yet he faced it with courage because he believed in the resurrection and that belief undergirded everything he did, he said and the way he lived.
Not only that, but Paul’s story demonstrates that in a moment with Jesus, anyone can be saved and given a new start in life. That anyone can be a humble, powerful testimony of Christ’s love, no matter what the circumstances of life may be.
God can and does use our imperfect and weak lives to reveal His incredible grace and desire to forgive.
Paul’s life is an example to us all. I pray today in your own conversion story, the hallmarks of your life would be as they were for Paul: grace, love, mercy, perseverance and hope.