Lately, as I have been ruminating on Paul’s letters, many of my thoughts have been about him. He is such a paradox to today’s “Christian” church. If only there were more like him, the world would once again be turned upside down!
Today’s world is so filled with “political correctness” and “tolerance” that it would be hard to imagine Paul walking down the streets of our cities. But, for a few moments, let’s try, and maybe it will spark a burning within our souls to create that same intensity in our lives.
Paul’s “Jesus experience” was one of definite and abrupt change. The Anti-Christian suddenly became Christian. One moment, he’s trying to destroy the fledgling religious movement and next, he is becoming the point-man in reaching the Gentile world. Even Ananias, before going to find him, takes a moment to remind God of Paul’s recent history! The transformation was so compelling tha he had the same outcome in every city he entered, for regardless of the number of friends he gathered, he definitely made enemies! Second best was never acceptable to him. He always gave his best to the Lord.
When you read his letters, you find a man obsessed with Jesus. He was a man with a death wish! (Philippians 1:21, NLT) “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Later in the same letter he wrote, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.” (Philippians 3:10, KJV) These words were not simple light poetry, for he knew about that which he was speaking! The following is his condensed autobiography: “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:22-27, KJV)
I have this mental picture of Paul being led outside the city by an angry mob. While the faces all around are grotesquely twisted in anger and hate, he has a curious smile on his face. It seems that he may be thinking, “This is my day! I get to go spend eternity with Jesus! Just a bit longer!” As they begin to throw the stones, he is “bobbing and weaving” but not to escape the stones; he is trying to help them! Then it is over, the crowd leaves, and a battered Paul lifts himself out of the pile with a light frown, muttering, “Aw, you missed again.”
What would you and I be like with that passion? Would we become entangled with “this or that” controversy? Or, would we simply focus on what matters, which is pleasing Jesus!
I have often stated that you see very few sad faces in the newborn wing of a hospital. You don’t hear many quarrels there, either. The birth process seems to always bring people closer; their attention is on the newborn, not each other.
If we can re-orient our priorities, if we truly put Him first, children will be born into the kingdom of God, for they are the result of intimacy. As you read Paul’s writings, it is evident that he had an intimate relationship with God, out of which was born the many Gentile congregations. To echo Paul’s words one more time, “Oh, that I may know Him!”