Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. Ephesians 3:8
This verse has always struck me. Paul a giant of the faith, one who had a deeply moving experience with God on the road to Damascus, calls himself “the least deserving” of all God’s people. Was this false humility? I don’t think so. Paul, who had also said that he had a “thorn in the flesh” from which he had not been delivered, was a man, I believe, deeply beset by a sense of shame.
I am not a Bible scholar, and this is strictly an amateur opinion of mine. Paul was a man who lived a life deeply committed to Jesus, and he was also deeply flawed. Sounds like a guy I would really like and could relate to.
Paul had persecuted Christians, and he had been present at the stoning of Stephen, an early martyr. Stephen’s last words were: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
If you are present, indeed complicit, in the murder of a person who is praying for your soul while you stand by assenting to that death, I have to believe that it leaves a deep impression. Was this really the moment that prepared Saul (before he became Paul) to see that those Christians were a different kind of people?
Maybe Paul, remembering those haunting words, saw himself, even after his redemption, as a man with scars. Maybe those scars were remnants of incomplete self-forgiveness. Who could blame him? Yes, he was forgiven by an amazing grace. Yet, he knew what he did. He knew that old Saul was still part of his story.
I don’t know. This is complete speculation on my part. But I think there is something to it. We all know what we have done, better than anyone else ever can. Yes, we are forgiven, but maybe there is a part of us that always reminds ourselves of that past, however forgiven it might be.
My point? Don’t be too hard on yourself if you still harbor some lingering elements of self-unforgiveness. You are in good company. But remember also, that God is not the one remembering those faults. His plan is for us to have complete forgiveness, including forgiving ourselves.
In the words of the old comic strip character Pogo- “we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us”
Prayer: Thank you for the truth that you have forgiven our sins “as far as the east is from the west”, Amen.