12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,13even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;14and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:12-14
Someone like Chuck Colson who was knee-deep in the Watergate affair and served prison time, will never escape the mention of his alleged participation in presidential “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Yet he’s changed from someone who would “walk over his own grandmother” to get his way, to a man “born again.”
Mr. Colson would probably tell you, as Paul told Timothy, that what was done was done “ignorantly in unbelief.” The word “ignorantly” can mean the act of “ignoring through disinclination.” In other words, these activities were more than simply, “officer, I didn’t see the sign.” The fact that they were perhaps more wilful than we might consider “ignorant” to mean makes the extension of grace and mercy, given the facts, more remarkable.
Like Colson, but more so, Paul’s notorious past was also mentioned as key background to headline stories in the “Jerusalem Post.” But these past acts only boosted the contrast between what was and what he turned out to be. While Colson lied and plotted to cover up White House involvement in the Watergate break-in, Paul’s actions were far more “unforgivable” in that he ravaged the very people he now led.
But the grace of God was “more than abundant” to erase the guilt of Paul’s past. It is important to contemplate that if grace is unmerited favor, and if its source is The Creator, the Alpha and Omega, and if this grace is described as more than abundant (meaning more than “abounding exceedingly”), even Paul’s sins against the church causing him to forever consider himself the “foremost sinner,” were overwhelmed to the point of insignificance. It’s like unloading a dump truck full of grace on top of an ant hill.
Despite your past, the Lord can and will use you in a mighty way. Where actions were taken against God in ignorance, or even insolence, now they are taken for him in the full knowledge and understanding and acceptance of his grace, faith, love and mercy.