An Unlikely Hero – by David Brauner


Two reasons I hear for not approaching God, are that folks believe they live a pretty good and decent life as it is- they don’t need forgiveness or any relationship with the Divine, or they say the opposite- that they are too intimidated to try. They feel unworthy. Maybe ashamed.  I hope that’s not you. God teaches that no one is unredeemable. This is what I take from the very famous Bible story called “Paul’s Conversion.” 

Paul, or St. Paul, is probably the human being most responsible for the exponential growth of the faith, from a handful of followers of “the Way,” as the early church was known, to the 2.5 billion Christian believers there are today. Paul is believed to have written 13 or 14 out of the 27 books in the New Testament of the Bible. That’s more than anyone. He was not one of the 12 Apostles but was certainly a chosen instrument of God. If you’ve ever attended a wedding, you’re likely familiar with some of his writing. This is from 1 Corinthians: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 

Paul’s exalted poetry, expressing the power and primacy of love, is quite a change of heart from his former self, the murderous “Saul of Tarsus.”  All through the Bible people shed old names for new ones as their lives change through faith. A new life and a new identity in relationship with God. Saul of Tarsus, Paul’s former self, was a relentless persecutor of the early followers of Jesus. He hunted down and imprisoned or executed men and women solely because of their faith in Jesus. To me, a good parallel is someone like Adolf Eichmann, who is said to have been obsessed with killing Jews. He is the Nazi SS officer who organized, with zeal, the plan of the other Adolf for, as the Dictator described it, “the final solution of the Jewish question.” Likewise, Saul was obsessed with exterminating the followers of Jesus. Friends, this is the unlikely hero who Jesus chooses to spread His Word around the world, and to teach us that without love, we have nothing.  This is the story of Saul’s Conversion from the Book of Acts.  

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Paul was blind but now he sees, to paraphrase the essential hymn “Amazing Grace.” If Jesus can embrace and transform a man like Saul, surely no one is a lost cause. The Song Pairing is “Signs and Wonders.” Until next time, stay safe, be brave and keep walking in the light.

Signs and Wonders
Signs and wonders, every day
signs and wonders show you the way
signs and wonders, all of the time
signs and wonders of the Jesus kind

There are Signs and wonders
all along the way
there are signs and wonders
for you today

Signs and wonders, problems on the rise
signs and wonders they will ease your mind
Signs and wonders, all of the time
Signs and wonders open up your eyes

There are Signs and wonders
all along the way
There are signs and wonders
for you today


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