Brokenness is a prerequisite for authentic conversion.

 Saints Peter and Paul: The Rock and the missionary. While they were both rooted in the Lord and they were both missionary in spirit, there are many reasons why they are grouped together. They both were tantamount in expanding the message of Jesus. They were both seen as two of the biggest leaders of the early church and they both died as martyrs in Rome. So much of it, I believe, has to do with their past and their flaws.

Sometimes I wonder how these giants of our faith were able to accomplish so much with their lives. I can often make the excuse that they were nothing like me. I summarize their life by their words in the Sculptures or statues in a church rather than view them as broken men who were made whole by an encounter with Jesus Christ. It was their brokenness that qualified them to be great heroes of the faith, not their perfections.

Peter was firmly rooted in his experiences with Christ. His faith was so strong and he could be so bold because he knew who Jesus was. That is why Christ named him the Rock. Peter was willing to go out on the water and walk towards Jesus in a storm. Peter was willing to claim that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of living God. Peter was willing to do things that others weren’t.

However, Peter did not have it all together. He had the courage to step out of the boat and on the stormy seas but quickly sank. He took his eyes off of Jesus and doubted. We also know that he infamously denied Jesus three times, when Jesus needed him the most. Christ was about to be sentenced to death and die, and this is when he claims to have never even met Jesus. At the Last Supper, less than 24  hours before the denial Peter boldly proclaimed that he would die for Jesus rather than deny him (Matthew 26:35).

As the leader of the Apostles, this must have cut Peter to the core. He was supposed to be the one who led, not the one who doubted and denied. He was meant to be unshakeable. This is where we are called to learn from Peter today. No one has it all together. We all have a history of sin and we are all still sinners, even if we have grown tremendously in our life of faith.

We are invited to see that Jesus calls Peter, in and from his weakness. He does not ignore the flaws of Peter; the shortcomings of the Rock qualify him to need a savior. The same is true for you and for me. Our sins do not disqualify us from becoming saints, they serve as the soil for the conversion that Jesus wants to work in us.

Our sins do not disqualify us from becoming saints, they serve as the soil for the conversion that Jesus wants to work in us.

The same was true of St. Paul.

Paul’s entire existence, post-conversion, was to be a missionary and spread Jesus’ name and message. As followers of Jesus, the only response is to be on mission. We are all asked to be like Paul, to have a mindset of the missionary. However, before Paul’s conversion, he was arresting Christians, not making Christians.

Paul was so certain that this small Jewish sect who followed Jesus of Nazareth were heretics that he was willing to travel around gathering them up and bringing them to sentencing. The encounter on the Road to Damascus shook Paul out of his boldness of certitude to see that he had it all wrong. Paul’s desire to serve truth and justice was honorable but the Lord needed him to reorient his entire life.

Most likely, all of us have a need to do the same. We all need a Damascus moment in our lives. There are things that we think we need to have or habits that we cling to that Christ desires to shake us out of. Paul was blind in seeing that he was hurting the One who crafted the Law that he loved so much. His temporary blindness post-conversion allowed him to come to see the truth that was right in front of him. Then, his boldness and relentless desire to serve God kicked in again.

N.T. Wright, a famous Pauline scholar, writes that those who heard Paul preached saw that he spoke about Jesus as if he was standing right next to him. This personifies his boldness and his encounter on the road to Damascus. It also shows that he saw his sinful past as something that Christ saved him from.

What has Jesus saved you from? How has he changed your life?

On this day when we celebrate two of the most important saints in church history we are called to see that their flaws enabled them to become who God was calling them to be. The same is true for us. The sooner we admit our sins and bring them to him, the quicker He can use our weakness to help save the world.

The Rock and the missionary are calling us forth, out of our brokenness and blindness and towards the light of a new existence. Today, let us allow Christ to take our flaws and transform them into serving him and glorifying his holy name.


Image of Sts. Peter and Paul:El Greco, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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