Speaking to the Soul: Bragging Rights

Conversion of St. Paul

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 19 (morning) // 119:89-112 (evening)

Isaiah 45:18-25

Philippians 3:4b-11

On the feast day of his conversion, St. Paul gives us a good reminder not to put our confidence, faith, and trust in the wrong place. Today’s second reading begins with a list of things that could have given Paul great confidence: He was circumcised according to ritual tradition; he is a member of the tribe of Benjamin and the people of Israel; he has a spotless record for upholding religious law; and he knew exactly who his enemies were (the church), and he persecuted them zealously.

Perhaps we have an impressive list of credentials ourselves. We might uphold the proud traditions of our families or faith communities. We might have an ethnic heritage or citizenship status that gives us a sense of identity and belonging. We might have a clean criminal history and a strong inner compass that keeps our conscience fairly clear. And we might have a firm sense of who the bad guys are in this world.

But Paul puts all of these bragging rights in perspective: “whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The privilege and pleasure of knowing Jesus–not knowing about him, but truly knowing him–demolishes all other sources of Paul’s confidence.

Whenever we’re tempted to base our confidence on the traditions of our family or our faith, on our ethnic or national identity, on our personal ethical standing, or on clearly-defining our enemies, we should remember Paul’s dramatic conversion. Paul realized that the only thing to value, the only place to put his confidence, was knowing Jesus Christ. Conversion shook Paul’s sense of confidence to the core, but it gave him somewhere much better to place his faith.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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