At the time of this writing, my friend and I should have been on vacation in Greece. Neither of us has ever been there so we were looking forward to visiting Athens, Thessalonica (Thesaloniki), maybe the new city of Corinth and other places the tour guides might suggest.
But we are both at home. For my friend that means the USA and for me it is Thailand. So if we are going to have any tour at all it has to be something of a virtual tour. One way to do that is to discuss a man who was there in Greece and many other places around the Mediterranean Sea almost 2000 years ago.
This man’s name—if you hadn’t yet guessed– is Paul. He was a tent maker. He never passed a hat around or took a collection anywhere he went. He prided himself with not being a burden to any one. But this man’s life certainly changed history. He traveled all around the Mediterranean area, and gave away to thousands the truth that had transfixed him.
But, what happened to us? Some of us have gotten distracted by politics, erroneously thinking that fixing laws will fix hearts. Some of us have become entangled in relationships that in turn tie us into the jobs we do to put groceries on the table and pay the rent. We made choices without really knowing what life was about. So we ended up in choices hardly even realizing where we were going. We got caught in pleasing ourselves, as Simon and Garfunkel put it in their song, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
None the less, these are precious days we are living in, even though the world is in turmoil. Economies are wavering. We cannot be certain of things as we used to, travel where we want as we used to. But there is a way of confidence. We can make choices based on reality.
Our choices matter, and so did they with Paul. How did he become a world changer? Even though he was zealous, he discovered he was zealous for the wrong thing.
This is how he tells it: “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, … was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.”1
The man who went through the absolute humiliation of having been completely wrong – doing the absolute opposite of the will of the God he thought he served, now sees he has no option but to choose to spend the rest of his life in a passionate appeal for others to see and know and love the God he serves.
Paul made his choice and we need to make ours. As Robert Frost put it:
- Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
- And sorry I could not travel both
- And be one traveler, long I stood
- And looked down one as far as I could
- To where it bent in the undergrowth;
- I shall be telling this with a sigh
- Somewhere ages and ages hence:
- Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
- I took the one less traveled by,
- And that has made all the difference.2
1) Galatians 1:13-14