At least one vivid description of Saul of Tarsus (aka the Apostle Paul) exists: “Small of stature, bald head, crooked legs, in good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness.” There you go: The one-man missionary gang.

Contrary to popular opinion, the man’s essential personality never did change. And based on what he wrote and what others wrote about him, he had quite the tendency to quarrel and debate and lose his cool, even after his conversion on the Damascus road.

One big change, though. Before, he killed those who crossed him, so that he had a reputation as the mad Christian hunter. After, he suffered and died for the sake of love’s cause. In other words, he had proof he’d changed. “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). So, he could pen some of the most extraordinary words in your New Testament.

“I would rather be damned than to see my brothers and sisters lost” (Romans 9:3).

“I know how to get by with little, and I know how to cope with an abundance” (Philippians 4:12).

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

A Jewish prisoner at the Nazi death camp Ravensbruck wrote the following prayer and left it by the body of a dead child: “Oh Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have borne, thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, our greatness of heart, which has grown out of all of this, and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness” (Brennan Manning, “Lion and Lamb”).

For those who testify to any good religious impulse at all, the question is obvious: What’s your proof? “By their fruit you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16).

The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.

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