9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11 (ESV)
Paul, may ask why they find it so incredible to believe that God raises from the dead, but in the end, he understands it. This is what he is getting at here. He understands where his persecutors are coming from, and this understanding he now offers as common ground for them that they can come over to his side. He talks about his early years as a persecutor of the church and all that he tried to do against the way. He would try to get them to blaspheme he says. No word if he was successful or not, but my guess was that he was at least somewhat successful. He describes his hate as a raging fury. It carried him to foreign cities. We see in Paul’s own missionary journeys that he was not the only one carried to foreign cities by the hate of Christians, that many came after him also. We only know of Paul’s trip to Damascus, which he will tell again here soon, but it seems he had gone elsewhere before that.
Paul was not successful. Despite his persecution Christianity grew and spread, sometimes because of persecution. But his early hatred has left a mark on Christianity. Paul’s persecution of Christians has stood as a written reminder that this sort of persecution of other religions and religious views isn’t acceptable for Christians. Oh, not in such a way that is has prevented Christians from persecuting fellow Christians and other religions. This, unfortunately, it has not succeeded in doing. Though, to be honest sometimes what is seen as religious persecution was not strictly religious in nature, and we ought to be a little careful about that. The Anabaptists of the reformation era, probably would not have been persecuted as violently as they were if on the one hand they weren’t raping and pillaging the entire country side, and if on the other hand the less violently compelled strands weren’t pacifist draft dodgers. The crusades were not so much about inflicting religious persecution on muslims, as they were about protecting Christians and others from the religious persecution of Islam. All that aside, Christians have persecuted other religions, most notably they returned the favor to those of the Jewish faith over and over again through the middle ages. Then there were the pagans and others. But in the end, Christians have always been called back to repentance for these acts of violence by passages like these, reminding them that this sort of thing is not the desire of Jesus, who himself would die for those who persecuted him.