When we think of Paul we think of a great spiritual leader. We think of all of his preaching, letters, and missionary journeys. He was truly a servant of Christ. Yet, we often forget his dark past.
We hear about Christian persecution and we shudder, but do you realize that Paul led the slaughter of Christians. He was the opposite of all the thing we attribute to him.
But, something amazing happened to Paul. Christ came into his life and suddenly a murderer and leader of persecution put down his hatred, laid his violence to rest, and sided with Love. Suddenly the one who destroyed lives became the one who gave hope and pointed the very ones he suppressed to the life giving water they longed for.
This transformation gives me goosebumps, and not only because of the amazing transformation in the life of this one man. It gives me goosebumps to think of the depth of grace and power and love that our Savior has. He came to earth that the vilest of men. People like Paul, could find redemption and transformation in him. No one is exempt from this amazing, life-altering power – unless they don’t want it. God’s love is so big that He doesn’t even force it on us. He offers it to us and let’s us choose. To me, the choice is obvious and oh so beautiful!
“What a wonderful savior is Jesus my LORD. . .”
When I look at the world around me, I am always in awe of the beautiful diversity there is. I have a friend who is really good at account management, noticing the smallest of details and keeping everything running smoothly. I have another friend who is an amazing mom. She has more patience than anyone I’ve ever met. One friend is the most caring doctor, truly longing to meet her patient’s deepest needs. I know so many more people and have so many more friends, and each of them is genuinely and truly beautiful in his/her own way.
I’m going to be honest: when I was younger, I used to look at all of these people and want to be just like them. I was disappointed if I didn’t meet the same standards I felt they met. But I forgot two really important things. The first is that I am not them. Each person offers such valuable gifts, and skills. They all have weaknesses too. It is this amazing blend of gifts and weaknesses that makes up the beautiful tapestry of people on this world. It is through these unique abilities, and even struggles, that we are able to see a clearer picture of the Master Weaver knitting us all together.
The second thing I forgot is where all of these gifts, skills, and strengths come from. They are not to be credited solely to the individual who possesses them. No. These are all manifestations of gifts given by God, a direct result of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I have access to that very same God and He is amazing. My focus needs to remain on Him and on seeking His help to develop the gifts He has blessed me with. They may not be as bright and shiny as I feel other gifts are, but they are valuable, they are needed and, most important, they are special – from my Creator.
The same is true of you as well! You are valuable. You are special. You are needed. God has given you gifts that are a beautiful part of this wonderful diversity. Sometimes we get overwhelmed, and it’s hard to even see what our gifts are. If that is you now, I urge you: stop looking at the gifts of others and reaching for what they have. Rather, turn to Jesus. Seek what He has to offer you, and look for the amazing gift He has promised you. Don’t stop looking. It might be where/what you least expect.
It’s easy to feel suffocated by the hate, tragedies, and lack of consideration we see all around us. What makes it challenging is that, in our digital age, we can’t get away from it. The media, our Facebook feeds, even the comments on our own posts. We have become combative and myopic.
But, as can be expected from such a loving God, we have been given a solution in God’s wonderful love letter to us. He has commanded us to love. Change begins with love. It does not start with pushing an agenda or arguing our point. It comes from love. As we interact with others let our goal be one of service, seeking the good of our neighbor before our own.
It can be hard to love with so much hate around. It’s easy to become defensive, to fear that the important things will be forgotten, to fear what will happen if we don’t speak out, but “perfect love casts out fear”. That perfect love comes from Christ, and his love is stronger than all the hate and fear this world can muster.
Don’t choose hate or fear today, chose Christ and allow His love to overflow in you. Be the change by loving your neighbor today – by seeking his good first. Christ will give you all the strength and love you need.