St. Paul’s Former Way of Life…
There is a great difference between the man named Saul that we meet in Acts and St. Paul who wrote this letter to the Galatians:
For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it, and progressed in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my race, since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions. -Galatians, 1:13-14, NAB
Looking at his past, St. Paul, formerly known as Saul, was not a man to be admired. Like many in his time, he did not believe the claims of the early Christians, but he took it a step further. He was known for actively persecuting the Christians for their beliefs. That is why his conversion is even more amazing.
Jesus chose some interesting characters to lead the early Church. He chose ordinary men to do the tasks of evangelization – fishermen, a tax collector, and other average men. They were all sinners, and one was even responsible for sending Him to the cross. Yet Jesus chose them anyway.
Choosing Saul, then, to become one of the most prolific early Christian writers, responsible for a large portion of the New Testament, is right in line with Jesus’ other choices but still almost unbelievable. Why would Jesus choose someone who so actively persecuted His followers? To show us that anyone can change.
When sharing my faith with others, a common answer that I get is that “my sins are too great.” Somehow, people feel that they’ve cornered the market on the most horrible of sins. They feel that they have done something so horribly wrong that it could never be forgiven. Even with some major changes, their former way of life still haunts them.
St. Paul’s former way of life, in contrast, didn’t seem to haunt him. He accepted the forgiveness that Jesus was freely offering and used it to motivate himself. Because of his sinful past, St. Paul saw this as even more reason to change his ways and live the life that Christ wanted him to live.
St. Paul was not always a saint; he was a sinner long before. Like St. Paul, we can also go from sinner to saint, but we need to put in the effort – we need to try. Let go of your former way of life and embrace the new way of life that Christ is offering you. The choice is yours – will you be a sinner or be a saint? St. Paul changed. So can you.