Inspired by 1 Timothy 1:12-20
“I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:12-14 (NRSV)
The order of events in Paul’s conversion is telling. Although he’d heard of Jesus, he did not believe in him as Christ the Savior; therefore he continued his ways of blasphemy, persecution, and violence. It was while Paul was in the midst of these ungodly behaviors that Christ judged him faithful and called him to himself. Upon receiving such grace, Paul was strengthened to change his sinful ways and begin working in the service of Christ.
Sin, grace, transformation. That’s the order in which God’s love becomes manifest. God doesn’t reserve his love for those who are ‘good’ and ‘deserve’ it. The charge that “God won’t love you unless you change” is false; it’s God’s love that enables radical change. But always, God’s love and grace come first, effecting our salvation.
The salvation of Christ is not about getting into heaven when you die. The salvation of Christ frees us from lives of sin and bondage here on earth, and enables us to live redeemed lives overflowing with the faith and the love of our Savior. He comes to us with mercy, faith, and love first, and that experience transforms us into joyful and obedient workers for the kingdom.
Let us pray. Merciful Lord, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Ignite in our hearts thankfulness and devotion to you, that we might become the people you have already called and created us to be. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.