Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Personal Paul

I like Paul. That may sound weird to some, because aren't we all suppose to like the great missionary apostle who wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament? Yes, of course, but it took me a long time to personally like Paul. Respect, admire, and diligently study? Absolutely, but I had a hard time really identifying with him as a real person - a struggling saint like the rest of us, because after all, he was the ultimate teacher, the super apostle, the mega-Christian whose feet didn't really touch earth - he just floated a couple of feet off the ground. He was INSPIRED! He was the source of most theological exegesis, discussion, and debate! He was the Man-With-The-Plan and what he said was Gospel! It didn't help that for a long time I didn't fully understand many of the things he wrote about. Hey - some of my favorite professors and mentors couldn't agree on what Paul was saying, who am I to think I have him figured out?
Like I said at the beginning, I like Paul. It took a lot of digging and meditating on his personal letters to churches and co-workers to truly, and finally, see the man, but now I do. I had to quit shredding his flow of thought while looking for proof-texts and patterns. I had to stop thinking of his writings as his input into the Bible. I also had to force myself to cease my relentless pursuit of his work looking for all the "do's & don't's" of self-righteousness and legalism, which I had been trained to look for. Once I started seeing a real man of God, with weaknesses, struggles, and faults of his own, who wasn't holding himself up as the "ultimate," the most dynamic, or even the top anything. He was driven by only one thing, telling people that Jesus was the Son of God and He rose up from the dead to prove it! When you stop reading his letters like they were theological treatises and start seeing his passion for the Gospel and his love for his brethren, they become beautiful shared gifts, full of the spirit of Christ. I don't skim through those closing verses with names, requests, and challenges any more. They show us how personal his letters were as he shares his victories, struggles, and plans. In turn, that helps me see his pleading, pointing, and pushing in the rest of his letter as shared love not laying down the law. It's impossible to understand 1 & 2 Timothy if you don't sense his concern for Timothy and the predicament his young son in the faith was in. Corinth would have been written up and written off by every church in the brotherhood today, but Paul lovingly guided and challenged them to stay focused on Jesus. No other author of scripture shared a list of physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles like Paul did in 2 Corinthians 11, and then in the next breath confessed to a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him humble and trusting in God.
Yes, I like him, and I feel like I'm finally starting to "get" what he was writing about in his letters. I can't wait to talk to him face to face or spirit to spirit.


Deborah said...

I did a Beth Moore study on the life of Paul last year, and it was one of my favorite studies ever. You would love it.

Anonymous said...

Is there a book in the works?