In which I chit chat with Paul

by Craig on June 1, 2011

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Poor James is always left alone to defend his simple statement of truth in an ancient letter.

Faith without works is dead.

And if this is the only place in all of Scripture I see this – then I am forced to believe he’s misunderstood, or his letter, is, as Martin Luther called it “a letter of straw”.

So I have to ask…
What if I were alive in the first century,
and walking the streets of Athens,
and bump into Paul and ask,
“How do I get this thing you speak about from this One God – this redemption?”

All due respect to Catholics,
I’d not ask a Pope.

All due respect to Protestants,
I’d not ask Calvin, or Luther.

All due respect to the Orthodox,
I’d not ask an ancient Church Father.

All due respect to a great man,
I’d not ask Billy Graham.

Knowing what I know now, I might choose James, but he’d probably be a little too direct – and not esoteric enough for me. So I’d run to Paul.

I’d know of the people who claimed that “works” do the “saving”. I’d know of others who said “it’s all Grace”. I’d know of those who “believed” and went right on sinning because of they were “covered” by Grace. I’d know of those who ensnared themselves in so many rules you could barely see a hint of Grace.

I’d know all of this – and Paul wouldn’t know that I knew.

Impertinent – yet sly little fox that I am.

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Do I know what he’d say?

I have to say yes…

we have his presentation from a hundred different angles.

We’d be in the streets of Greece, Paul and I. And Paul had a way about him. He might describe it like this:

To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law–though I myself am not under the law–to win over those under the law. To those outside the law I became like one outside the law–though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ–to win over those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” (ROM 9:20-22)

To Slaves he spoke of slavery.

To Romans he preached with reason.

To Jews he referred to the “Law”.

To Greeks he appealed to philosophy.

I once was about throwing “gospel” out to everyone – assuming I knew enough to speak to them – where they were.

So arrogant.

Without knowing what a person believes, without asking the questions, should we be so quick to an answer?

I think Paul would have asked some questions.

I’d appreciate his efforts, but I’m impatient, I’d ask him to cut to the chase.

I’d want a sound byte.

I think he’d accommodate.

“By Grace through faith in the Lord Jesus, the Savior.”

He’d know I’d want more than that.

But I’d think I was a step ahead of him.

So I’d try to trap the trapper,
“Okay…
so I believe…
and I receive!
Right?”

“Yes,” he would say,

“and no.” he would add.

I heart a good riddle,
a challenging puzzle,
a knot to untie,
but I’ve never been big on the cryptic answer.

He would know this

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Wise old fox that he was.

He’d now know I was interested in more…

tomorrow…

God Bless

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn June 1, 2011 at 9:44 am

Dear Craig,

Oh yes, and this side of the “twin” sites is for me. The dogs left the comment over at Deep Into Love. I love how you are doing this very difficult discussion of faith and works by walking alongside the apostles and interjecting thousands of years of history along the way and drizzling your personal journey throughout. This is like a yummy hot fudge sundae to me.

My husband spent a year studying in a Lutheran seminary where the dorms were full of “those who “believed” and went right on sinning because of they were “covered” by Grace”. My sister’s family was one who “ensnared themselves in so many rules you could barely see a hint of Grace”. This is such an important topic. Balance in this area would be so revolutionary to many. Thanks for taking the risk.

Love all your hard work,
Dawn

Reply

Craig June 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

thank you Dawn, I replied to the dogs :-)

Thank you for getting all that I do – thank you. One side is legalism – the other side abuse of grace – balance – not really so revolutionary – but you are so right, revolutionary to some. Thank you, and God bless and keep you and all of yours.

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A. June 1, 2011 at 11:41 am

I live daily with the bludgeons of legalism and scorn of grace. it has worn off all my skin and is heading for bone. i get that there needs to be balance, for sure. it is very important. for now, i just pray for a blaze of vision that will resurrect life and hope and color once again. Exhausted.

Bless you.

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Craig June 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm

first of all, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see the single letter A. in this comment area. I needed that smile – thank you :-) I can only imagine the battle is tough – so tough. I need to pray for you more often. Keep looking up A. Keep looking up. And just to make you smile

here

^.^

God bless!

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Cora June 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Loved those foxes and the expressions on their faces! I’m not sure I would have approached Paul with a question. I formed an opinion of him early in my Sunday School years, and I thought of him as a grumpy guy with pointy, boney fingers, and piercing eyes that would see right through me straight to my heart. (And God only knows how much I always fear anyone seeing my heart!!!!) Since I was raised with more rules than you could ever begin to keep and told that God would judge me for every single wrongdoing of those rules, I knew nothing of grace. I think back now, and I wonder what I thought all those verses meant???!!!! I find it funny (in a pathetic kind of way) that I always thought of Paul as the guy beyond my reach and James as the down to earth “this is how ya do it” sort of guy. My thoughts and opinions of Paul have changed and mellowed over the years as grace has freed me from the despair of perfection. So I’ll wait for the foxy guy’s thoughts on “yes . . .and no”.

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Craig June 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Cora, there’s a funny story about me thinking of Paul as a grumpy old man – remind me if I don’t tell it soon – it involves him and Joan of Arc – how’s that for a teaser? It all changed for me when I studied Philippians – such an amazing little church – and they hearted him LOTS! And Paul? I don’t know if I’m going to continue the fictional conversation – but I do know that I’m going to be all over every inch of his words – and hearting it :)

PS thank you for noticing the foxes and their faces it took me forever to find those two perfect foxes – so thank you for noticing – God bless you.

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Dawn June 1, 2011 at 8:48 pm

A.,

I’m with Craig. It was so good to see you here. I worry when you are gone for a bit. I, too, am praying for you. You have a bunch of brothers and sisters here who really care about you, please hang on. You are in the middle of something. Don’t despair, only He knows what’s REALLY going on and what the outcome will be. Don’t assume the worst, trust Him, ask Him, be with Him.

Praying for that blaze of vision and that your eyes can take it,
Dawn

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A. June 1, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Oh Dawn, you and Craig…thank you, just thank you, and tears. Your words carry more encouragement than you can know…you ease the darkness, the aloneness…fellowship is such a precious thing, even if the only way one can have it, for a time, is through the internet.

And Craig, thank you for the smiley faces….they bless, too.

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Debbie June 2, 2011 at 12:24 am

Add another smiley face, blessed to see our A! And praying too, for help and grace enough to cover you deep.
Thank you, Craig, for talking to Paul for us. :) You did good and have me hearting hearting and what is coming next. God bless you and fill you up!

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