I finally pried myself away from my morning Facebook “research” and turned to Paul. “Was it easier to do your work before social media?” I asked.
He thought about it for a moment. “My face wasn’t everywhere,” he said. “So I could walk with a group of travellers and not be noticed. But there was word of mouth that traveled quickly. And when we went from village to village, people followed us. Ready to argue and attack what we were saying. In fact, I wrote to Galatia because there were people who were in town disputing what I had taught.”
“What comes to mind is that they knew less about your looks and more about what you actually taught,” I suggested.
Paul shrugged. “It could be.” He looked closely at me. “But what is true is that I wasn’t distracted by the kind of research you seem to be doing.”
I changed the subject. “So you were in Syria, Cilicia, and 14 years of ministry without going back to Jerusalem, without getting permission, working only from God’s direction. And Cilicia was home for you, right? Tarsus?”
“And in fact, no one back in Judea knew you. ”
“Right,” he answered. “I spent a decade and a half working outside Judea. No one knew me personally. Because the people who had known me best were in the leadership positions, still working to eliminate the church.”
“Wait a minute,” I interrupted. “That makes me curious. How much of the opposition you faced was personal?”
Paul looked at me quizzically.
“I wonder how much of the attack against you was motivated less by a commitment to the law and more by a sense of betrayal. You were a leader. You were a role model. You were one of the leading critics of Christianity of your time. And when you converted, it would have made your colleagues afraid and mad. Afraid that the message they had wasn’t true. Mad that you were undermining them.
Mad in the same way that they were mad at Jesus.”
Paul thought for a bit. “I’ll accept that theory as long as you don’t neglect the spiritual part. That our battle isn’t against people, it’s against spiritual powers.”
“I love how the churches in Judea described you: ‘Preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ It suggests that we should look closely at the destroyers. And pray for them.”
Paul smiled gently. “That’s what Stephen did. He prayed for me.”