Stuck with Paul
by John UpChurch
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14
You can’t escape Paul forever. At some point, every Christian must set aside self-righteousness and drink Paul’s writing, which can be akin to slurping down pickle juice. The sharp bitterness sends shivers through the whole body—and yet hydrates from the inside out (which is really what pickle juice does).
The bitterness, however, isn’t from what Paul says exactly; it’s from our reaction. Each word hurts because it’s true. Sometimes he hits our recklessness, and sometimes he hits our legalism, helping us to clean the glass so that we can see clearly.
Far worse, in my mind, is Paul’s refusal to let us gloat or raise ourselves up. There’s no place for that, no room for a trophy case. Being isolated by my own sense of holiness would be easier; I’d love to slip away into my happy world of playing Christian.
Paul doesn’t even let me close the door.
“Look ‘out there,’” he says. “You see those people? That’s you—each one is just like you. They need the gospel. They need grace. You know all about it. You’ve met the same Jesus I did. They’re not coming in here, bub. So, get out there and do something.”
It’s an uncomfortable feeling, trying to understand how to be like Christ, how to shine through pitch. I want to pursue Him with all I am, but He keepsgoing out where the tax collectors and sinners are—people like me. The only difference is that I realized how much I needed Him; they haven’t yet. And perhaps the very reason they haven’t is because I’m not out there telling them.
Or as Paul might put it (at least, in my head), “They ain’t gonna hear if you don’t speak up. And they ain’t gonna fall on their knees if you’re too chicken.”
Jesus went to the synagogue—and then took the synagogue to the people who needed it most. He did most of His miracles out in the thoroughfares, tombs, fields, and corners of the world. His loudest messages echoed from hills and street corners. In fact, I didn’t meet Him in a church—or a Bible study or a church event. I met Him where Matthew did: in the middle of my sin.
Some sinners come running to steeples. Some sinners come running to Jesus in the streets.
Intersecting Faith and Life: We all need Paul to smack us around on occasion. He keeps us from digging a bunker to hide from the messy world outside. He reminds us that Jesus picked us off the ground, not to look down at those still trying to stand, but to show them the One who can make it happen.