Was Paul the Apostle a terrorist?
Paul (also known as Saul) was a Jewish man from the first century from the city of Tarsus. He was a learned man, trained under the prominent rabbi Gamaliel. He was zealous for God, and transformed that zeal into an intense campaign of fear against Christians. By his own account, he heavily persecuted Christians. He threw Christians in prison and even condemned them to death. He used violence as a way to intimidate Christians and stamp out their religious movement. But in the end, Paul was converted to the Christian faith through a dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus.
But regardless of whether Paul can be described as a terrorist or something else, he must have carried the heavy weight of his past life. When Paul closed his eyes to pray, did he see flash before him the faces of all the people that he killed? When Paul lifted his voice to sing, did he sing the same songs that he heard the Christians sing as he sent them off to prison? It’s one thing to seek forgiveness from God for sins that only affect you. It’s another to ask forgiveness from a community that you have actively sought to destroy. I find it remarkable that the words of Paul, who once savage attacked the Christian faith, now hold a place of great honor and esteem by Christians throughout the world. Paul’s story teaches us the power of forgiveness, and that God does not define a person by the worst thing they have ever done.