Sometimes when I read Paul’s letters, I get the feeling that if we met in person we wouldn’t get along. Paul strikes me as a man of extreme absolutes, a man of intense mission, a man of uncompromising nature, a man that epitomizes the concept of “black and white, no gray”. So why would I not get along with him? Is it because he is SO direct? Is it because he often appeared, in the midst of fulfilling his calling, tactless and insensitive? He certainly knew what he wanted.
Is that why I wouldn’t connect with him? We would agree on some things… disagree on some. What would Paul see as inefficient, wasteful? His standards, high expectations of himself and others, and his inability to relent for a moment characterized his ministry. But was it healthy?
Maybe it’s not a matter of being healthy or sick, but productive and unproductive. In Paul’s letter to Titus he speaks countless encouragements, many of them repeat in his first and second letters to Timothy. In chapter 3 he instructed Titus to stress the kindness and love of God, the rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, God’s generous nature, and the role of Jesus Christ as our Savior, and he did so for one reason which is found in verse 8 and 14.
Verse 8 – “And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”
Verse 14 – “Our people must learn to devote to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.”
Why did Paul say what he said, do what he did, and sacrifice so much? He did not want his life to be meaningless and account for nothing. And he was alone. To declare, “Everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me” (2 Tim. 1:5), is to declare that truly nothing but the mission of Jesus mattered.
Are these unrealistic goals? Is this an unrealistic life? No. But it is a lonely one. A person that would be willing to risk everything, give everything, and function within an unrelenting love for Christ can expect to be alone on much of their journey. This person learns to draw their companionship, not from a spouse or family, but from the Holy Spirit.
Today, some may look at Paul with sadness and pity. He never married. He never raised a family. He never slowed down enough to “enjoy the finer things of life”. But in doing so Paul had something very few Christians can fathom… he had a PRODUCTIVE life and a relationship with God that would inspire jealousy from the lukewarm. Sure, some may look at Paul with doubt, questioning his method and mission, but everyone looks at him with respect. Because of his sacrifice, his words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are changing lives thousands of years later.