13 July 2015

1 Timothy 1:12-17

“I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (vv. 12-14)

Psalm: Psalm 150


To coin an old phrase: when the heart speaks, the heart listens.

In today's passage we see the apostle Paul being completely honest about his past. He was a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent and ignorant man. The worst of the worst. And yet he is not ashamed, because God's mercy and Christ's sacrifice are enough to redeem even him. Genuine contact with Christ is nothing less than transformational - if anyone could testify to that, it was Paul. And, presumably, those around him must have been astounded at the difference: "Golly, he's changed!"

But instead of divorcing himself from his past, blotting it out from memory, Paul almost seems to wear it as a badge of honour: "Look how far I've come!" Although he has new identity in Christ and will never return to the old ways, he cannot deny his past. He embraces it as an essential element of his story - a story that comes from the heart and speaks powerfully of the miracle of Christ's love.

It strikes me that perhaps vocation begins with gratitude - an understanding of the magnitude of what Jesus has done for us and a desire to respond appropriately. I also believe that vocation is about 'owning' our own stories, but not allowing ourselves to be owned by them. Paul may have been a violent man, but his past did not dictate his future. Letting your story speak into your life and the lives of others can be astonishingly powerful. It doesn't have to be Paul's story, it doesn't have to be dramatic or unusual - it just has to be genuine.

When the heart speaks, the heart listens.


To Ponder

  • What is your story?
  • What has Christ done for you?
  • How might you respond? 

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.

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