S109P4 – Voices of the martyrs: Paul

1 Cor. 6:4-8

If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!

When I survey my childhood and adolescence, I can see many themes emerge.  One of those themes was what I thought was my greatest hindrance in life, which was to always stand out.  At least I felt as if I always stood out as the one person in the room who was not quite like the others.  This led to years of attempts to try to mold myself to whatever social groups I happened to be part of.  Whether it was school, work, or family, I wanted to fit in.  Ultimately, that is something that made my transition to Christianity really tough.  I now was being challenged to really separate myself from the world I had wanted so badly to fit into, to intentionally live differently. 

The transition from Saul of Tarsus to the apostle Paul was incredible.  He was a zealous Jew who would not have thought himself to be part of the world, but that was where he resided without Christ.  Then, as he made his change and began to bring others to the Lord, he was forced to go against the grain of the culture for which he had practically been a poster child.  The opposition he faced was not merely about his faith in the messianic claims of Christ.  He also faced opposition for his denial of Jewish customs such as circumcision.  In their eyes, he was inviting the unworthy Gentiles into their world without even purifying or qualifying them according to tradition. 

Paul spoke of his zeal in murdering Christians for believing in the Lord.  He was a man led by faith, and he truly believed that he was on the right track.  Once he awoke to the truth, he then would have to face the same opposition he once perpetrated.  I wonder whether Paul really understood how distinct he would have to be compared to those around him in order to serve the Lord.  I also wonder whether he had seen the writing on the wall regarding his fate as a result of his own prior persecution of Christians.  He stood out then, and he stands out now, but that is not a bad thing at all.  Father, help us to be more distinct from the world daily and to be comfortable being different if that means being like You.