We all have heroes in our lives. People who have inspired us to reach higher, run faster and to have the courage to step out of our comfort zones. One such man for me lived in the first century A.D. He was called Saul in the early years of his life until he changed the direction of his journey, and then became known as Paul. As Saul he was an important man in his community, a man of money and prestige. After years of dedication and study he had achieved a position of authority in the prevailing belief system of his country and people. He was present at the first execution of a member of a new religious sect that was considered blasphemous. Although he didn’t throw any of the stones that killed the accused himself, it is reported that he held the cloaks of those that did. This act is in holding with his position of hierarchy. He then was convinced his mission should be to track down others of this sect and turn them over to those who would set in judgement and handed down what they considered just sentences. So Saul became a bounty hunter of sorts, not for coins but because of his sence of duty. He traveled throughout Israel in pursuit of this quest until on one of his journeys he had a life changing experience.
Now no matter your spiritual beliefs or what religion you subscribe to or if you reject all such beliefs, imagine the courage of this man who put aside his old life and embraced the teachings of the very people he had been arresting and imprisoning. He faced complete rejection of all those he knew, family, friends and colleagues. Now he would be considered an enemy of his very countrymen, and would not be easily accepted by those he now wished to join in their cause. He had been pursuing them with intention of harm. How hard it would have been to win even a small bit of trust from them. Saul even put aside the most basic of his identity his name, not in an effort to conceal his past but because he believed the directive he was given, and took the new name of Paul.
Paul is described as being small in size, not very attractive and had some chronic health problems. He was haunted by the authorities, both Israeli and Roman . He was imprisoned, put on trail and threatened with execution more than once. He suffered through being ship wreaked and difficult travel conditions we will never experience. We think a delayed flight or traffic jams are a hardship, they are nothing compared to touring a big part of the known world at the time of Paul’s’ life.
Paul wrote letters to the people he visited in his travels as he went to other places and when he was under house arrest in Rome to encourage them and to advise them of solutions to problems they were encountering. One such epistle is the book of Romans in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. I have just finished a thirteen week study class of this book with a wonderful group of women. Now again regardless of ones belief there are some valuable truths to inspire us in Paul’s’ writings. He expresses the need for kindness, generosity, non-judgement, patience, humility, respect for authority and most of all love. Love not only for our family and friends and those of like minds but love for those who have hurt us, to those we might describe as enemies. Given the life he lived I find this teaching not only inspirational but remarkable. That a man could endure the hardships he went through and come out on the other side not only without bitterness but with love truly in his heart and then with real humility, giving all the credit for his virtues to the Savior he worshipped. So Paul is one of my greatest heroes.
All your commits will be welcomed with love.