Saul and I grew up together as kids. We lived in the same village, went to the same synagogue, and played the same pranks on Rabbi Gamaliel for as long as I can remember. The one thing that stood out most about Saul was his propensity for controversy. It didn’t matter where he went, conflict always seemed to find him. And he didn’t back down easily from a fight. One time I had to rescue him from some of the other boys because he had attacked them after they questioned his understanding of the Shema. One against seven is never good odds, but Saul held his own. Somehow we lost track of each other after our training.
And then, while I was in Jerusalem, I heard rumblings that some of the followers of Jesus were back and claiming that He had been raised from the dead! Unbelievable. I wanted to find out more for myself. I came upon a crowd gathered outside the temple. Lots of shouting, but then a man named Stephen was thrust forward and began to address the crowd. I couldn’t catch all that he was saying, but it was evident that the crowd wasn’t happy. In fact, in an instant, everyone was grabbing rocks to stone him! And as I looked across the way, there was Saul, standing over the helpless body of Stephen. Somehow I wasn’t too surprised. I made my way over to talk to him, and it turns out that he was the Council’s new hitman against the so-called Way. I thought it was an appropriate choice.
Saul was on his way to Damascus, and we talked about catching up more when he returned. But when he came back, something was very different. In some ways he was the same Saul, stirring up controversy. But now he was a powerful proponent of the Way. He claimed that Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus and that He was indeed the long-awaited Messiah that we had been waiting for. And not only that, but He was also the Son of God. I was both shocked and overjoyed because I too had become a follower of the Way. Saul’s zeal was impressive, but also deadly. He invited persecution from the moment he believed. He couldn’t help proclaiming Jesus as the Christ and facing down his opponents. It almost cost him his life, so he came to Jerusalem. And things were no different here.
After a tenuous meeting with church leadership, he was accepted in on the recommendation of Barnabas. But it didn’t take Saul long to stir up trouble and soon he was sent back home to our village. Saul had great zeal for the law and an aggressive personality that made him a dangerous opponent of the Way, but when he collided with Jesus he became a strong proponent of Christianity. God took the passion and the personality and the experience and the training that He had given to Saul and redeemed it to use for His purposes. How does God want to use you?
Until next time…stay salty.