We know from scripture that Saul was not friendly toward Christians. On the contrary, he was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter” toward them. That goes beyond being unfriendly. This was vehement, violent hatred.
In Acts 9, Saul’s conversion seems like a sudden experience. We get no impression that he was at all previously softened toward believers. In the Bible account, it seems as if one day he was combing the countryside seeking out those who followed Christ, so that he might deliver them bound to Jerusalem. And then the next day he is blinded on the road to Damascus and his heart is changed. But I wonder…
We don’t have every thought and event recorded in scripture. There are things that took place, words that were said, thoughts that were pondered in all the nooks and crannies in between the events we read about in its pages. What was Paul thinking as he gave Christians over? Had he witnessed the faith of those like Stephen, who, even in the face of death, had a face “like that of an angel” (Acts 6). Had he watched some suffer in grace-full silence, who caused him to wonder about the course of his own life? Were there moments when he doubted his wickedness in having a part in this persecution? Did he have times in the quiet when he remembered the prophecies learned in his youth and thought seriously about this man called Jesus?
I tend to believe conversion is not quite a “flipping on of a light switch” but rather the slow turning of a dimmer switch. We gain more and more light, begin to personally integrate what we understand as the Spirit works on our hearts. We are awakened to His everlasting love.
Paul himself (when the believers became factious) said that there were those who planted, and those who watered, and then God gave the growth (1 Cor 3). I wonder who watered Paul? Who was faithful instead of fearful?
Homework for my heart: Who am I “watering” by my witness? Who is obtaining refreshing living water as a result of my actions and reactions? This is a “dry and thirsty land where no water is.” Am I sanctified and cleansed by the washing water of the Word, so that I might purely dispense that same water to other thirsty souls?