The Person Behind the Hero
In the world of history our memories latch on to the persona and set aside the man. For what ever reason, it is better for us to remember the hype and forget the battles. In our minds Ronald Reagan planned the demise of the Soviet Union in grade school--we do not like to think that maybe, just maybe he was figuring it out as he went. Abraham Lincoln is remembered in quotes and snippets-- we don’t see the man who might of grabbed his back as he rolled out of bed or that time he inevitably hit his head on the kitchen cabinet because, thats what people do. As far as relating to a historical person, we need the cape (because after all thats why they’re worth remembering) but we also need the Kent. If we want to understand the hero, we’ve got to take the time to examine the man. As church planters we look to the life of Paul with great admiration. Personally, I have always looked to Paul as the embodiment of balanced Christianity. As far as a thinker, one of the best, as a missionary, extra-ordinary. Paul was uniquely gifted for the task he was called to. But lets dig in to the man behind the extraordinary accomplishments.
The first time we read of Paul he is a leader amongst peers, he is zealous for his cause (ironically the demise of Christianity), and he is ruthless, persecuting the followers of Christianity, sometimes even to their death. Paul then undergoes a miraculous conversion and begins what would become the spread of the Christian Church throughout the known world. Paul would soon have life experiences that the modern reader is scant to understand or appreciate--and this is what builds Paul’s persona. The modern (western) reader cannot appreciate nor understand what it means to be imprisoned for the faith, being the object of beatings (often to the point of death) for the faith, and then experiencing dangers for the sake of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus.
Paul’s life was big to the point of exclusion; how do you remember the man behind all those experiences? Unfortunately we often do not, but the accountings of the New Testament give us the whole picture. We have the Mona Lisa and the left over paint.
After what seems to be a discouraging visit to Athens Paul makes his way to Corinth and stays for an extended period of time. Paul would end up spending a year and a half with the Corinthians, faithfully teaching and proclaiming Jesus. Paul would later write to the Corinthians and remember his arrival this way: ‘And I was with you in weakness and fear and much trembling.’
The great Paul, the author of the long-cherished letter to the Romans and the missionary from whom all of Western Christianity is rooted, was the sum of his parts. He experienced fear and he trembled. He would later write to the Corinthians again and recall his experiences in Macedonia with these words of transparency, ‘for even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn--fighting without and fear within.’
It is comforting to know that Paul was a man of varied experiences; that he stood before his accusers and preached Jesus, but that he also felt fear and even trembled. Because the truth is rejection is hard and difficult. We can put forth our best argument, our most well thought phrase only to see it laughed at and rejected.
Paul wears the hero’s cape because his legacy is absolutely amazing. He fought the good fight and lasted. Paul was not unscathed in his journey though, he felt the sting of failure, drank from cup of adversity, and sat in the seat of trembling, but the truth of the Scriptures and the power of the gospel gave him confidence to prevail. As we, like Paul, struggle to share the Gospel throughout our spheres of influence, we must take courage. Paul persevered in the midst of the struggle because the prize was greater than his sufferings.
Paul finished the race and kept the faith. So can we church planter.Jesse Crowley serves as an Elder at Providence Road Church in Miami Fl, where he is responsible for Corporate Wroship and Missions. He holds an M.Div degree from SEBTS and a BA from the Baptist College of Florida. Jesse and his wife Stephanie are passionate about seeing the Glory of God in the Gospel proclaimed throughout South Florida.