In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, a letter that was probably meant to be passed around to several congregations, he came out fighting. First, he defended himself and his right to speak about matters of faith. With his background, it’s not surprising. Remember that most of these people knew him first as an oppressor of Christians. It’s not surprising they might doubt his claim to apostleship.
I have a dear friend who has a few felony convictions he picked up while in the midst of a bad addiction problem. Every time he applies for a job, he has to disclose and explain. Paul’s history of persecuting Christians puts him in a position of having to explain himself too.
Do you have a history that you need to explain?
Look, and this is really important so listen up!! Explaining is sometimes a natural consequence of our past issues – but it is no excuse for giving up on your potential and promise and purpose. Explaining is what we have to do sometimes, but that is different than feeling so insecure that we constantly demand that others approve of us. Oh I pray you can see the difference!
My friend with the felonies lives with some regrets; he’s not happy about those past convictions. AND he lives with a lot of gratitude. He works a great program, and his current life speaks for itself. He doesn’t ask people to approve of his past, but he’s made peace with it, and he doesn’t fear the opinions of others. If he applies for a job and the interviewer cannot see his way around the checkered history, my friend thanks him for his time and moves on to the next interview. By the way, my friend has a rich and meaningful life, a good job, is in grad school and I think he’s a person to be admired. Anyone who cannot see beyond his past into his present is, well, missing out on a relationship with a terrific person.
Here’s a way that Paul explained his sense of self-respect, “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.” Galatians 1:15-17 NIV
Paul wasn’t set apart because he was terminally unique, he was set apart because God willed it – and as a result of his willingness to believe that God loves him and extends him grace, Saul was transformed into Paul. This same truth applies to each of us. Please don’t let your past blind you to the marvelous possibilities of your present!