Yesterday, we learned that Saul, later known as the Apostle Paul, was born as a slave after his parents, who were Jewish zealots, were arrested by the Roman government for being part of a tax revolt. Growing up in the clutches of slavery, he spent his foundational years with virtually no rights or personal freedom. It wasn’t until his master died that he inherited Roman citizenship and finally had the opportunity to plot his own course. Interestingly, he followed in the way of his parents and became a very zealous student of Jewish law. The difference, however, was that this young Pharisee studied under Gamaliel, who happened to be the most influential rabbi of the time and had an influence on Judaism that was so great it can be felt to this day. In modern terms, saying that you were a student of Gamaliel would be like saying you were mentored by an astrophysicist who went to Princeton and was a student of Albert Einstein. In other words, he was a big deal, and his teachings carried a lot of weight. Interestingly, while he was very much orthodox, Gamaliel’s rabbinic convictions paralleled those of Jesus in that he believed in loving your neighbor, and he taught that your neighbors were both Jews and Gentiles. This is where Saul’s convictions diverged. While his rabbi was fully invested in loving the Romans, he was bent on persecuting them, and this is why Christianity was a particular threat — because within the Church, equality was paramount. From his hatred of believers, it’s clear that this learned disciple hadn’t made peace with his past and was still carrying around a great deal of anger. While we don’t know the exact cause of his bitterness, we can see that it was destructive to others and that he needed a Savior to set him free from himself.
My friend, since Jesus set you free from the pain and injustice of your past, live as one who is truly free. Make the most of the opportunity you’ve been given to start fresh, and do it in the Lord’s strength. Never give up on your dreams and set the mark high where it comes to your unlimited potential — just don’t enslave anyone else in the process. Unlike the zealous Saul who held the view that he was superior to many who surrounded him, recognize the impact of your liberty and use it to set others free, welcoming them to share in the blessings you enjoy. Walk humbly with your Savior, treasure the mercy He lavishly poured into your life at the cross, and pay it forward by being a minister of divine justice to everyone you encounter.