(This is a journal that I wrote for my Biblical Themes of the New Testament class)
A Conversion Story from Paul to Jason
Northwest Christian University
May 2, 2015
The question that I chose to write my answer to, is the first question. I spent a lot of time thinking about the things that I could say in response to the question of Paul’s strong conversion story that is told in the 9th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The question asks me to discuss the pros and cons of a strong conversion story, and then consider how it relates to my story. Since my conversion started over 20 years ago and is still an ongoing experience, it was difficult to consider how his conversion relates to mine. This paper is my attempt at explaining why Paul’s strong conversion was necessary, and my conversion is still an ongoing process.
The idea of a person who adamantly opposes a movement and then becomes one of its strongest supporters, is a pretty benign concept to someone who understands a little about psychology. As children of God, we all struggle against the one thing that will save us, thereby creating a cause for us to act upon until we receive the grace to stop struggling. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, and he was speaking to Christians in Rome after his conversion. However, I believe the same contradiction existed in him from the beginning, as it does in all of us. “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Romans 7:19 NABRE) The cause that most of us act upon is selfishness, but if we stopped to think about what really brings us happiness and joy, it is selflessness. If we did the things that bring joy to others, and not to ourselves, we would be truly full of joy, but too often we choose the things that would make us temporarily happy.
Paul, when he was known as Saul, went on a mission to attack the one thing that could save him, the Christian movement. The movement that was created by God to disciple the world with people who were uniquely his own through their relationship with his son, Jesus. In his case, as we saw in the retelling of the murder of Stephen, he was not always out front in the attack against the Christian movement, but he chose to be out front to stand up for the cause that he believed was just. “They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:58) In his case, he had formed his life’s mission around the destruction of a people who were in opposition to his faith. God knew the fortitude that was won in Paul through years of training in the Jewish faith, and dramatically changed his path to bring him to a new understanding and leave the path of wickedness behind, because God knew that movement needed his unique gifts.
For me, God knew the weakness and lack of obedience that had been won through years of neglect and lack of discipline over the first 18 years. So, it was a slow and deliberate conversion over the past 25 years. I think this is the case for most Christians today, God chooses to make our conversions much more deliberate and gives us the opportunity to choose to follow at every step. However, as I spoke with a college age convert recently, I realized that the blinding conversion of Paul may be becoming more necessary to keep new disciples from getting lost in this self-obsessed culture that is so pervasive in all aspects of life. My conversion was not like Paul’s or Saul’s, but I can definitely see that God has used the events in my life to make me aware that there is another mission for me that is beyond what the world would offer. A mission that calls me by name to do a work that I would not choose for myself, but I follow because I know it is God’s will.
The New American Bible, Revised Edition (March 9th, 2011)
God is still calling me “John” and telling me to “Go”, and I hope that I am still following his will…At least most of the time…Glory to God in the highest…Peace to all the people on earth!