Today's Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-10
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Those who think that they can be holy on their own can't stand those who only trust in Christ. Saul was like that. He was a Pharisee and he worked really hard to prove himself by rounding up Christians and getting rid of them--until he became a Christian himself. And doesn't that prove God's grace! Certainly Saul (also known as "Paul") didn't decide he wanted to follow Jesus. Rather, Jesus went after Saul, took him down a whole lot of notches, and raised him up again in the waters of Baptism. From then on, only death would be able to stop Paul from preaching Christ crucified for sinners.
You can only look down on others and persecute them when you think that you have to prove something to God. We're sinners. We can't prove anything. The only thing we have is the evidence that we deserve everlasting death. There's no religion or holiness in us--not without Jesus.
But where Christ is, there is mercy and salvation. There is forgiveness of sins. There is no need to look down on others as if you're better than they are--as if you're more religious or a better person in God's sight. Your standing before God is all Jesus. His perfect life. His death which answers for all your sins. His resurrection which declares death defeated. His ascension where He pleads to the Father for you. Your Baptism which, like Saul's, has made you God's child. The Absolution which has taken away Saul's sins and all of yours, too. The Body and Blood of Jesus whereby He lives in you.
Paul started off as a killer of Christians. He was beheaded for confessing the Name of Jesus. You only go from one to the other by the grace and mercy of Christ. But why? Not for Paul's sake. Rather, through Paul, the Lord brought many to faith. Through Paul's preaching, sinners were led from darkness to light and to the confession of the true God in whom they have salvation. You, too, have been given such mercy. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Thy works, not mine, O Christ, Speak gladness to this heart; They tell me all is done, They bid my fear depart. To whom save Thee, Who canst alone For sin atone, Lord, shall I flee? (Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ, LSB 565:1)