Today is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The church calendar is packed with feasts commemorating missionaries and apostles, but no one feast is so important to us as St. Paul’s, and no aspect of his life more important to us than his miraculous conversion. Without the Apostle to the Gentiles, it is very likely that you and I, Gentiles all, would not be confessing Christ this day.
I am especially reminded today of Paul’s encounter with the Gentile cultural elites of his day on Mars Hill during his time in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). Normally we find Paul first engaging with his countryman inside the local synagogue, but here we see him as Christianity’s first true apologist. We find him pulling from the best of Greek culture, philosophy, and even religion to connect with his pagan listeners and lead them to the transforming love of their one true Creator, Jesus the Eternal Word. Here is the Gospel’s first inroads into the “respectable” world of classical Western civilization, and that civilization, your heritage and mine, would never be the same again.
Sharing our faith with others can be very difficult. We desire to follow Paul's example, but the actual questions he posed to first century Greeks aren’t of much help to us in our post-modern context. As I remember today the Apostle to the Gentiles, I am truly thankful that God continues to provide his church with effective cultural apologists who can help us. Earlier this week, I came across the post linked below by Pastor Tim Keller, in which he applies the lessons of Blaise Pascal to the task of modern evangelism. Pascal’s simple approach to presenting the Gospel may prove helpful to you:
1) show people that faith is not irrational but in fact worthy of respect,
2) show how faith is eminently attractive, that is, how it’s vision of the good truly satisfies humanity’s deepest longings, and
3) show how faith does satisfy those longings in actual fact.
I encourage you to read Tim Keller’s brief article linked here to find out more, and I encourage you to begin brainstorming now how you might begin to follow his advice, and St. Paul’s example. Remember the titanic pagan cultural edifice Paul and his Gospel were up against, and remember how God used this one man’s obedience to begin to convert that culture to himself. Our task today is no less daunting, but our God and Paul’s is no less capable of the impossible as he was nearly two thousand years ago.
The Collect of the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching and example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Blessings in Jesus,