Fit in. Do what is expected of you. That is what we are taught from an early age. This is nothing new of course, although the details of what it means to fit in changes over time and are different from place to place.
Saul of Tarsis was the perfect example of somebody fitting into his culture. The Jews persecuted the early Christians (people of the Way), because of their radically different beliefs. Jesus had come to fulfil the law and ring in a new era, but the Jews at that time just couldn’t see the truth of that. Here is how Saul describes his life:
Acts 22:2-5 (WEBBE): 3“I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict tradition of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as you all are today. 4I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, 5as also the high priest and all the council of the elders testify, from whom also I received letters to the brothers, and travelled to Damascus to bring them also who were there to Jerusalem in bonds to be punished.
Saul did everything that society expected of him, he did it well and he was widely known and respected for it. And then, on that very same road to Damascus, he had an extraordinary encounter with Jesus.
Acts 22:6-16 (WEBBE): 6As I made my journey, and came close to Damascus, about noon, suddenly a great light shone around me from the sky. 7I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.’
9“Those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they didn’t understand the voice of him who spoke to me. 10I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Arise, and go into Damascus. There you will be told about all things which are appointed for you to do.’ 11When I couldn’t see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. 12One Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews who lived in Damascus, 13came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ In that very hour I looked up at him. 14He said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. 15For you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16Now why do you wait? Arise, be baptised, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Saul thought that he knew everything, and the humans in the world around him agreed. But then, when he encountered the living God, he changed dramatically. This Saul is the same person who is called Paul in Greek, the guy who wrote a pretty large part of the New Testament of the Bible!
Paul had to really fly in the face of all conventional, human wisdom of his day. But he persevered, and made a huge difference in the world.
Paul’s life story is pretty remarkable, and quite dramatic too. Most of our lives are far more mundane. But even so, we are called to also be different.
Romans 12:2 (WEBBE): 2Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.
The choice is yours – will you remain worldly, or will you be transformed to spectacular effect?
Will YOU dare to be different?