Many people who are familiar with the Christian Testament know that the Apostle Paul was initially shunned by the 1st Century fellowship of believers in The Way, and with good reason. Named Saul at birth, this man had been an avid anti-Christian rabbi who had travelled the countryside executing believers. For that and several other reasons, they were not down with Paul’s transformation. So Paul found himself fighting, yet, another uphill battle with his peers.
You see, scholars have uncovered that Paul was not so popular with his Jewish contemporaries, either. Born into a modest-income family that worked and sacrificed to pay for his education and religious training, Paul had a lower-class stature than most of his schoolmates. Therefore, he became an “over-achiever,” hoping to win friends and acceptance. I suspect this is why he enthusiastically embraced the job of “chief persecutor of Christians.”
In this day and time, real men, men of substance and worthy of allegiance—leaders—were expected to demonstrate their power through control. One could control by persuasion—delivering a logical and convincing argument; with appearance—dressing and speaking in ways that would impress people; with authority—exerting one’s social/political status over others; by force—exercising physical control, inflicting pain, threat of pain, or death. If you couldn’t represent, it was best that you kept your head down and stayed out of the sights of the big boys who could.
With these cultural dynamics, is it any wonder that Jesus was embraced by so few, ridiculed by so many, and executed by the power-elite? And it is from these superficial and biased dynamics that Jesus came to “set the captives free.”
Who were these captives that Jesus and Paul sought to unfetter? According to some people, even today, it was only one half of the world’s population.
Written by Rev. R. Boyd, one of our multitalented clergy members.