Yousef: Why did Paul persecute the church?
Greycen: Why Jesus would heal the ear of the Roman solider Peter cut off, if later, that solider would be party to His crucifixion?
Great question. The book of Acts and Paul’s own letters is how we are able to do our best to know some of the story of Paul’s life before he became a Christian. What we do know was that he was persecuting christians. It tells us that in Acts, which was written by Luke who travelled around with Paul after his conversion.
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
And Here is just one text where Paul says that of himself:
Galatians 1:13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.
The truth is the Bible does not give us a specific reason why Paul decided to persecute the christians. Some commentators believe that he was particularly upset by christians in Damascus who had decided not to follow the Torah (what we now know as the Old Testament) once they became Christians.
Even today there are people who are fearful of how differing worldview might corrupt or weaken the faith they grew up with or currently believe. There are different ways to deal with this type of fear. Unfortunately, in history and even today we see that some people think that violence and force is the only way to protect their worldview or to keep an opposing worldview from growing in popularity. However, this is not the way of Jesus Christ. We see that Jesus sacrificed his life to bring peace, rather than sacrificing the lives of others to build his kingdom. Greycen, I think this speaks to your question as well! Jesus constantly was reaching out in love and grace to “people who didn’t deserve it”. He had told his disciples that if someone hit them they should turn the other cheek, or to walk an extra mile even if they were being mistreated by an authority. Specifically in Matthew 5: 44-45 he goes on to say But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. In healing the soldier who was about to take his life, he was living out perfect love for God the Father and perfect love for others. He did not command his followers to do anything that he would not do himself. When we love others even when we disagree with them or even if they hurt us, we are walking in the perfect love of God.
This is one of the amazing things about the story of Paul. After he finds Jesus, he goes to people that are completely different than him-gentiles! People who believed in many gods or no gods at all, and he got to know them and love them and shared the truth of Jesus with them.
It’s important today to remember that one way powerful way to fight fear is by learning about other religions and becoming friends with people who believe differently than you. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, and that everyone is your neighbor. When we view all others as our neighbor and make it our goal to love them, we learn to respect and value every person even when we disagree with their views.
Keep asking good questions and spread the love of Jesus even with people who seem completely different than you!