Sunday we talked about words from Paul. When I’m talking about Paul, I’m talking about the apostle Paul, the writer of a lot of letters in the Bible, Saint Paul.
Paul was an amazing scholar. Paul was a remarkably religious person. Paul was passionate about his devotion to protecting the true obedience to God. He was so devoted that he arrested people who were disobedient. He was working so hard to make God happy, to satisfy God’s expectations, God’s obligations. To defend God’s dignity and reputation.
Until it became clear to him that he was the one who was disobedient. Jesus appeared to him and said, “Why are you persecuting me.?”
I sometimes talk with people who say, “God couldn’t forgive what I’ve done.” I say, “Have you killed Christians?” That usually stops them. “No,” they say. “I haven’t.” “Paul did,” I tell them, “And he was forgiven and embraced by God and lived a life of service and devotion.”
Paul realized that his success had come working against God. Paul realized that God didn’t want his hard work. Paul realized that God wanted him. Relationship with him. Conversation with him. Reconciliation to him.
God wanted Paul to know him. To know that the love of God isn’t measured out in scoops the size of our prayers, one act of God for each 100 or 1000 or million words from us. Paul realized that the love of God was measured out, poured out really, in the resurrection and the death of Christ. That love drew Paul in.
Paul made it his life’s work to abandon his own reputation-seeking. Paul made it his life to live in the middle of God’s love for him, God’s love for us, God’s work for us.
He was devoted to God, like a baby is devoted to her mother. But unlike a whining, helpless baby. Like a person rescued from death is devoted to the rescuer. Wanting to know how to help, how to serve, how to care. But unlike a rescuer who is called to be a rescuer, like an EMT. A friend and mentor and provider and lover who rescues you at great personal cost, for the sake of having you close, helping you grow, drawing you into the family.
If we understood the graciousness, the opportunity, the gift, to be more than nothing, to be a pauper welcomed as royalty, to be a reject welcomed as family, we might, like Paul, reject what we thought mattered and do everything possible to learn about the new house, the new kingdom, the new relationship, the rescuer.