Saul of Tarsus became a Christ-follower when following Jesus was easier said than done. As Apostle to the Gentiles, he entered a demolition derby! Warfare, racial strife, and special-interests polluted his landscape, undermining both individual and community interests.
Seeking to convert people, Paul invited audiences to repent of their personal sins and the failures of their culture by confessing Christ (Eph. 4:1, 7, 26). He admittedly terrorized people in the name of God before God rescued him from the tyranny of his legalism. Following his Damascus Road experience, Paul no longer regarded others “from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16, NIV, emphasis added).
Paul’s encounter with Jesus redefined his humanity, added new dimensions to his life, and transformed him into an Ambassador of Jesus Christ. Paul, especially commissioned, now represented God’s kingdom of peace (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). By the time of his death, his epitaph could have read, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
When introducing Jesus into Athens, Paul first acknowledged their traditional beliefs and built on that. After establishing a common ground, Paul shared his new resurrection perspective and reflected on how God lives, moves about, and resides (has his being) in all humanity (Acts 17).
Of course the Athenians rejected Paul’s resurrection message as a wild herring. But rather than further defend his teaching, Paul trusted the Spirit of God to guide them and sustain him. With no ill will, and without debating cultural issues, Paul moved on like a prophet of old, maintaining the good will of the people. He urged them to trust in God and left them in God’s hands.
Arriving in Ephesus, he saw certain infantile views in the church and invited them to mature spiritually by enlisting under the Supreme Command of Christ. Put on your spiritual armor. Wear the grace that only God gives (Ephesians 6:10; 4:14-16; 1:6-7).
When we view each other through our natural eyes, we elevate our natural human hostilities. On the other hand, Jesus commissions us to offer love that unifies differences and forgiveness that reconciles broken relationships (Matthew 28:19-20). Wherever we go, amid the wars and rumors of wars that continually confront us, Our Lord invites us to be peace-makers. If we have nothing else to give, at least offer a cup of cold water to the stranger – in His Name!
One June evening at Church Convention I met a black man. James Earl Massey’s greeting to me passed quickly: “May the peace of God be with you, my brother” His word of “Shalom” prompted me, however, to re-consider the words Jesus spoke to His disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Therefore, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and ... afraid” (John 14:27, NIV).
We were two men passing in the mass of pedestrians, carrying the baggage of differing ethnicities in a world filled with turbulence, terrorism, broken lives, and fragile relationships. Together, however, we shared a peace affirmed by songwriter Barney Warren. He described it as a joy he could not otherwise express, a theme that fortified his life and remained “sweet to his memory”. There really is a “Kingdom of Peace”:
‘Tis a kingdom of peace, it is reigning within,
It shall ever increase in my soul;
We possess it right here when He saves from all sin,
And ‘twill last while the ages shall roll.1
1 “The Kingdom of Peace” Barney E. Warren. Worship the Lord, Hymnal of the Church of God. Anderson, IN: Warner Press, Inc., 1989, p. 481.
In Warner’s World,
I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com.