Often when we think of Paul, we think of how he, as Saul of Tarsus, persecuted Christians in his zeal as a Jewish leader. But, do we think of ourselves in our lives before Christ as a persecutor as well?
Think about this: if you didn't come to Christ at a young age, you had time to do and say things that hurt Jesus. I am no different. In fact, I'll tell you a little bit about myself, the way I used to be before coming to Christ. No, I wasn't a Christian at a young age, I waited until I was middle 20's before He got to my heart. I had plenty of time to do and say things that hurt Him.
I'm ashamed to say that in my life before Christ, I mocked Christians. As a child I grew up in a home where Jesus and God were curse words, and there was no respect toward God, church, or anything remotely Christian. I learned to think of Christians as goody two shoes, hypocrites, busy bodies, based on what my parents taught me by actions and words. I wanted nothing to do with those folks who went to church on Sunday, wanted nothing to do with whatever was in the building that made folks get up early on Sunday morning, get dressed up, and drive to town (we lived in the country) to sit in a hard pew and listen to some man yell at you. As far as I was concerned, Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, all denominations and beliefs were the same.
This continued on after school, and on into my adult years. I mocked. I cursed. I did things I am not proud of in search of MY own life. Life was about ME, what I wanted, My wants and MY wishes.
When I became an officer in the Dept. of Corrections and was assigned to a high medium/max security men's facility, I walked into the place where God was needed most. It was depraved. I saw things I wish I could scrub from my mind's eye. I heard things I wish I could forget. I mocked inmates who were sincere in wanting to seek Jesus--I was taught in the Academy that they were into jailhouse religion in order to get in good with the parole board, and I bought into the idea. During my time as an officer, I met 3 different ordained pastors, all active in ministry outside the prison system and who were officers on the night shift. I made life rough for them when I worked around them. None of them tried to tell me about Jesus. During those depraved years, I drank on my days off, partied, did things that were "cool" according to my fellow depraved officers. On the job, the folks I hung around with after work made the shifts hard for the professing Christians who worked with us.
I'm not proud of it. In fact, I am ashamed. I did this to the One who died for me. I mocked, I persecuted, I was no better than Saul.
Jesus brought me out of that world, out of that life of mocking, of making fun of Christians, of persecuting Him.
I am eternally grateful.
Now, I am a member of the side who is mocked, who is persecuted for beliefs (ok, it's not like in China or any other Communist country yet, but we feel soft persecution already), who hurts when someone does that to our Lord. The tables turned.
It doesn't take someone the magnitude of Paul to have such a huge life change. It can happen in that everyday person such as you and I. We don't have to have Paul's reputation as Saul in order to do those same hurtful things to our Lord and to other Christians....we just have to have that same heart as Saul did. We also don't have to stay like Saul--we can come to Christ, repent, turn away from our sins, and live a life in Him, never to do that again.
Going from the persecutor to the persecuted.