I just finished reading the book of Acts while following along in The Grand Sweep: Daily Response Book, written by Ellsworth Kalas. Kalas says, “Some people love the apostle Paul and some dislike him intensely, but everyone agrees he is a key figure in the Christian faith” (p.183). I have to admit, five years ago, even as a Christian who affirmed the Bible as God’s Word that is authoritative and the primary source of theological truth, I was in Kalas’s second category.
I did not like Paul. It seemed like everyone at my Southern Baptist college was obsessed with him, and I just didn’t get it. It wasn’t that I didn’t think his writing was true. But when I read the stories of his life and his letters I could never feel completely comfortable with the tone. It seemed I must not understand his time, context, and the acceptable “posture” of the way he spoke and wrote. He seemed arrogant. He seemed proud. He seemed adamant about things that seemed to me more about personal preference (such as the conviction that one should avoid marriage if possible).
I just finished reading the book of Acts, not for the first time. And I can honestly say that, now, Paul is one of the figures in Christian history I admire most. His testimony, his conviction, his focus on the mission of God revealed in Christ, and the character traits he evidenced through his life and ministry strengthen my faith and challenge me to a life of more purity, fervor, passion, and commitment. He is a disciple of Jesus who I think I can sometimes misread or under-appreciate.
What are some things you admire about Paul? What are some things that turn you off or rub you the wrong way as you read about his life in Acts and his own letters in the New Testament? Please feel free to comment on this post and offer your response.