Saul: The Before Snapshot

Our Sunday’s school Cool classes in April are studying Saul/Paul’s conversion: the story of one who traveled for the purpose of eradicating Christians… but ended up being changed into someone who ended up traveling to preach about Christ!

On the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, Saul became a new person.

So how can you help your children understand why this transformation of Saul is momentous?

It helps to look at the way Saul was before his switchover. And, it helps to compare Saul to a character your child may know.

Saul: The Before Picture

Saul was a Pharisee. Pharisees were a group of Jews who believed that a redemptive relationship with God could be achieved through strict obedience to the law. Their view of “the law” was two-fold: the written law and oral laws.

The “written law” included the Ten Commandments and other God-given laws described in the book of Exodus. The Pharisees also believed that Moses had received equally binding “oral laws.” It was felt that these oral commandments helped make the written law clearer and thus, easier to follow… but unfortunately, these oral laws often made it more difficult to be loyal to God.

How does this example sound: Many types of work, such as carrying a “burden,” were prohibited on the Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:21-22). The Pharisees felt that this written law needed further interpretation; just exactly what was a “burden?” Thus was born an oral law specifying that things such as money or trinkets were in fact burdens. (Better watch what you pick up!)

Some Pharisees got so caught up in the details of their man-made laws that they lost sight of the spirit of God’s law. It’s almost as if they forgot why they were following the laws in the first place!

Jesus had not condemned all Pharisees but he did frequently argue with those whom he called “hypocrites,” reprimanding their self-righteous behavior and their strict interpretations of the law. (A few examples: Matthew 12:1-12, Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-13).

Who does Saul remind you of?

Saul was a particularly zealous Pharisee. He loved God and tried very hard to follow the Jewish law. But somewhere along the way, he became what we might call a fanatic.
A picture of Wile E. Coyote on a drinking glass

To help explain Saul’s “before” picture, choose a character from your child’s repertoire. Wile E. Coyote, of cartoon fame, reminds me of the before-Saul. How does Wile E. Coyote feel about the Roadrunner? (He wants to destroy him!) We could say that Wile E. Coyote is a fanatic; he is focused on getting the Roadrunner! Likewise, Saul was also a fanatic. He was focused on getting Christians and putting them in jail and sometimes, he even had Christians killed.

Once you’ve got a character that your child can compare to Saul, describe a turn-around in their behavior. Have fun and ask your children to think up transformational examples. Here’s one:

Saul’s transformation on the road to Damascus is like… Wile E. Coyote starting a “Rescue Roadrunners” Facebook group.

What words and characters help you explain the before snapshot of Saul to your kids?

Photo credits:
Wile E. Coyote by Adam Dale, who licensed this photo under: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

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