All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” (v.23).
At the start of the 1998 film Les Miserables, recently released convict Jean Valjean staggers into a small village. Cold, starving, and out of options, Valjean receives a meal and lodging from a local bishop. During the night, however, Valjean repays the bishop’s kindness by running off with his host’s expensive silverware. He’s caught the next morning, but the bishop graciously saves him from being sent back to prison by claiming that the stolen silverware was a “gift.”
As he’s about to send Valjean off with even more silver valuables, the bishop looks him straight in the eye and says: “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. With this silver I have bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. And now, I give you back to God.” The rest of the film goes on to reveal how the bishop’s extraordinary gesture of grace transforms the convict’s hardened heart and, in turn, how Valjean devotes his life to helping those who are in need.
Jean Valjean’s dramatic turnaround reminds me of the apostle Paul. Before he received Jesus, he too was a cruel and self-absorbed man—blind to the true things of God (Galatians 1:13). But an unexpected encounter with Jesus’ mercy and kindness completely transformed his life. He abandoned his mission to persecute Christians and make a name for himself (Acts 8:3), and he devoted his life to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:23).
Paul’s life illustrates that a life changed for the good is what naturally follows an encounter with the grace of God (Titus 3:4). Nothing has more power to transform self-centered people than a growing amazement for what God has rescued us from and for—to serve in His kingdom.
Read Acts 28:30 and note what it says about Paul and his pursuits.
What kingdom-bringing service has God called you to do? How has God’s grace transformed your life and pursuits?