This morning I preached on the lectionary reading from Galatians, 1:11-end, in which Paul tells, as he does here, the story of his meeting with Christ on the Damascus Road.
It struck me in both places that while we tend to think of this as a model of conversion, that doesn’t seem to be how Paul sees it. He doesn’t consider that this was the moment when he repented of his former evil ways, or became convinced that he was a sinner. It’s not a moment when he would have said that he stopped being a Pharisaic Jew and became a Christian (even after that word had been invented).
Paul saw his gospel after his meeting with Jesus not as a new faith but as the fulfilment of his old faith. He says as much in 26:22-23.
‘To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.’
How would it change our approach to mission and evangelism to see ‘conversion’ as being about the fulfilment of people’s past paths in life as much as about rejecting them for something completely new?
And how would it affect our own view of our conversion and faith to think, as Paul does, as much about the purpose for which we were called as about the situation from which we’ve been called? Here (26:15-18) Paul reports Jesus’ words not as being about his past sins, but about his future mission. Perhaps, if we’re going to hold on to Paul’s experience as one model of ‘conversion’ we need a view of evangelism which places vocation, the call to ministry and mission, firmly alongside the call to repentance.
A note and admission… I started this blog a year ago today, intending to blog every day for a year. To those of you who’ve read regularly, thank you! If you look at the number of this post, you’ll see that I’ve missed the target by quite a margin. Sorry!
I’ll keep going – please keep reading, and let me know what you think of my thoughts.
May God be with you.