St Paul is a very special Saint. He is so special that he doesn’t actually get a day for himself in the calendar of Saints. He has to share one with his great fellow saint St Peter, with whom he not always got on well during his lifetime, and that is putting it mildly, they fought with hammer and tongs for the heart and soul of their faith.
But Paul also gets remembered this week (25 January), when we specifically remember just one split second of his life-time: his conversion. This ‘conversion’ was not only spectacular, but also perhaps the most important event in Christian history after the resurrection of Christ. Paul suddenly became a Christian after he had been haranguing, killing and persecuting those very early Christian groups that had formed around the friends of Jesus. But Paul did not only become a Christian, he became a most important leader in the early Christian church.
It was his vision, and he fought for it tooth and nail, that the Christian faith should become available literally to ‘all nations’, to all classes, to all races and – most surprisingly for his time – to all genders. He wanted the Christian Church to turn from being a mutual support society for like-minded people to being an international force for salvation for the whole world.
Naturally such a radical vision unsettled many and it caused deep division amongst Christians. But in causing all this division for the sake of truth, Paul also pointed us to the way in which unity might one day be achieved. He gave us the picture of the Christian Church as Christ’s body, with different parts having different functions but being dependent on one another.
The only thing that really matters in Christian Unity is that Christ is at the centre and as we draw closer to him, we draw closer to one another.
21 January 2018