The people who join the Christian faith do so either through birth or through conversion at a later stage in their lives. However, it is said that there is a marked difference among the believers who join the faith by the two means. The claim has it that those brought up in religion from birth are less likely to harbour enough passion about their faith than those who come to it afresh. Is it true? This paper tries to answer the question in relation to the life of the newly baptized Apostle Paul.
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The Apostle Paul, the writer of thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, had a strange past. He started out as Saul, the tentmaker, Pharisee and oppressor of the early converts into the Christian faith. According to Acts 9:1-9, dramatic events took place that completely changed this man’s life while he was en route to Damascus (The Holy Bible, 1984). Before then, he had laboured zealously to wipe out the fire of Christianity, after his conversion, he laboured as diligently or more for his newly found faith.
Paul’s fire and passion were great qualities that made him spread the Word successfully. His missionary activities reached throughout the Roman Empire and his slavish dedication enabled him to preach about Jesus Christ as far or farther than the other early Apostles. It is evident that God made use of Paul’s past experiences to farther the course of the gospel. Surely, there is none as zealous as the converted.
Most of the people brought up in religion from birth have become accustomed to the faith. They view religion as a normal way of life since they simply follow their parents to church without a dramatic change in their lifestyle. Many of them join the faith after coercing without them really experiencing it for themselves before making the final decision. The story of Paul’s conversion illustrates that faith got after a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, without persuasion, can move mountains (Essortment, n.d., para. 8).
It is impossible to refute the powerful impact the ministry of Paul had on the lives of the early Christians. His acceptance of the faith gave fundamental proof to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Apostle Paul’s life before the conversion was a powerful manifestation of how God can change lives to glorify Him. In contrast to the people brought up in religion, a person’s past life experiences always becomes a major driving force when serving the Lord as he or she looks back and testifies the far God has brought him or her.
Saul struggled with the dawning reality that his life, although lived in passion for the Almighty up to the extent of oppressing the Christian church, has in fact been a life of “ignorance in unbelief” (1 Tim 1:13). By asking himself the question “why?” he started to come to the senses that in demonstrating his love to God by oppressing His people, he is, in reality, demonstrating his enmity to God (Bible Gateway, n.d., para. 8).
As Saul thoughtfully reflected on the “why?” and come to terms with the divine perspective on his deeds, his whole life made a drastic turn. The things he considered as gain became loss (Phil 3:6-9). Does the individual bring up in the Christian faith have enough time to answer the “why?” question? Is it that they simply “inherit” the faith of their parents without making careful considerations for the profession of their faith?
The complete conversion process takes place when one accepts new religious conviction that is not the same from the convert’s earlier convictions. The convert gets a new religious identity or a transformation from one belief to another. Religious conversion needs internationalization of the new beliefs one has chosen to live by. It involves a change in the centre of one’s interest and is a matter of life or death. This implies that the new convert makes a sincere avowal of the new belief system and manifests this in his or her way of life. The individuals who join religion afresh often experience this change in life shown by the passion they have for their newly found faith.
This is because they make a sincere affirmation of their faith, as they do not want to go back to the dark past of their lives. On the other hand, those brought up in religion are less likely to be filled with the same passion for their faith. This can be attributed to the way they came to embrace the faith. Most of them do so after being forced, pressurized, or threatened with consequences of earthly penalties or harm. This typically makes them lack the drive for their faith, and ultimately the passion to keep them moving.
When one becomes a convert, he or she should have a lifetime commitment to serving God faithfully (Blank, n.d.). By accepting a particular belief, does not guarantee one to end the service to God. However, it is the start of a lifetime dedication of service to the Master. This was evident in the life of Apostle Paul. He had a zeal for the gospel and he travelled far and near to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. Those brought up in the faith most of the times are less enthusiastic of their faith. This may be due to the lack of dedication manifested in their lives as no major transformation of self took place on conversion. Many of them may have an intellectual assent to the belief system without having a personal encounter with the Saviour. Those brought up in a religion joined it without experiencing what it means to live outside the love of God, so they are often less motivated to proclaim their faith since they lack a sufficient backing of their profession of faith.
The conversion of Paul illustrates that the most zealous Christians are converted, but not those brought up in the faith. This is not to say that God is unable to use those brought up in the faith since God is no respecter of persons and he needs our availability, not the ability for Him to use us. When the love of God has found a place in the heart of a convert, like a sweet fragrance, it becomes hard to hide it. Those who are around us witness its holy influence. The Holy Spirit in the heart is like a fountain of water in a desert that flows to give life to all and makes the persons who are ready to perish to come and drink freely of the priceless water of life.
Bible Gateway, n.d. Paul’s Conversion. Web.
Blank, W., n.d. On the Road to Damascus. Web.
Essortment, n.d. The Conversion of Paul. Web.
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The Holy Bible, 1984. The New International Version. Colorado Springs: The International Bible Society.