My 21st icon is the Apostle Paul. I didn’t know much about Paul’s story until I started studying him over a week ago. I think he gets a bad rep for a guy who ordained women deacons. His words “love is patient, love is kind...” are known to many people, even those not familiar with the teachings of the Bible. Saul (his name before he converted to Christianity) of Tarsus (modern day Mersin, Turkey) was responsible for the death of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Saul set out to abolish Christians on the road to Damascus, when he suddenly went blind and had a vision from God. Jesus appeared right in front of him with a flash of light from the heavens and said; “Saul, why do you persecute me?” Completely blinded for three days, Ananias (who also had a vision from God to heal Saul) laid hands on him and “the scales fell from his eyes.” Saul swiftly became a devout follower of Jesus and spent his life being persecuted as he would “suffer much” for his new-found beliefs. He traveled nearly 10,000 miles on missionary trips throughout his life, sharing the story of his conversion in the hopes of inspiring others. He went from taunting Jesus and his followers to defending the holy legacy in one fell swoop. Saul took the name Paul, which means small or humble, because he felt smaller than his fellow apostles who actually stood beside Jesus, someone Paul had never met in person but was around the same age. Emperor Nero eventually had Paul arrested and beheaded, becoming a martyr for his faith. While hel was imprisoned as an aged man, Luke the Evangelist was able to visit Paul and transcribed his accounts which we now have as living testimony in the Acts of the Apostles.
Paul taught me that you don’t need eyes to see what’s right in front of you. We “walk by faith, not by sight” my friends, there’s room for all of us at God’s table. Even a man known as “Saul the Persecutor,” causing the bloody deaths of Christians can become one of the greatest followers of Christ. We only need to know love, and Paul traveled nearly 10,000 miles to spread Jesus’ love, no matter the suffering of his own consequences. May we all learn from the Apostle Paul to stand for what we believe in, to be patient with love, and may we all learn to be blind so we can see again.