25 January 2011Galatians 1:11-24
"For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin." (v. 11)
Here Paul provides another account of how he became a follower
of Jesus. St Paul was the original poacher turned gamekeeper of the
religious world; as Saul he was one of the leading persecutors of
the newly-found Christian 'sect', which was making converts of many
within the Jewish community. Saul would have a miraculous
conversion on the Damascus Road (Acts
9:1-9), and become a leading advocate of the Christian faith.
However, in the aftermath of his conversion, he faced a huge
credibility gap among those who simply did not believe he was a
changed man; some thought this was a ruse to expose Christians to
the antagonist authorities.
In our ever-so cynical, trust-averse society, there is much scepticism towards those who claim to have undergone some religious experience, especially a life-changing one. There is also a fear that new converts will become 'Holy Joes/Joannas', or zealots who want to tell everyone about their newfound beliefs. Others may be wary of the convert's sincerity; that they are seeking to elicit sympathy, forgiveness or a better hearing by claiming to be a changed person. Equally, it is difficult not to be mindful of the men and women whose newfound beliefs have led them astray and resulted in all manner of harm.
There is little doubt that conversion brings about change. It is hard to imagine how a supernatural experience would not result in a plethora of changes. Far from being a negative experience, conversion often results in the emergence of individuals whose newfound faith inspires them to stand up for truth, justice and equality.
In Paul's letters, which were largely written to Christian converts, he spoke about the importance of having a sound doctrine, imploring believers not to play fast and loose with teachings. This is paramount if new converts are to be balanced, committed believers who are seeking to make a difference in a cynical, suffering world.
Paul became a Christian as a result of his miraculous conversion on the Damascus Road. What are the advantages/disadvantages of coming to faith like this?
How do we define what is a sound doctrine?
To what does your faith inspire you?