While driving to work today, I was thinking about the apostle Paul. I spent a number of years under the influence of religion. Some of it mainstream… some of it not-so-mainstream. The doctrines varied, but there was a common theme. They often used Paul as a crutch to back up their destructive teachings. Effectively doing harm to men, women and children alike. His name is sometimes used to browbeat women into submission, to force men into positions of authority or action (in the name of GOD) which they have no business in and to give children a skewed view of the family structure. These being all well-meaning souls who have just picked up these ideas from the traditions of their chosen sects (one of the most famous sects being “Americanization”). As I would hope most of us have already discovered (along with Tevye), tradition consistently has nothing to do with truth. And as a result, we reject Paul, labeling him a controlling, judgmental, self-righteous ass… a man who couldn’t possibly know anything about women or families, having lived his entire life as a single man. Well, I’ve come to find out that in order to receive his teachings properly, a couple of things have to be in order. First, realizing that it is God’s words you are studying, not Paul’s. God may have chosen Paul to deliver the words, but that doesn’t make them any less His. Secondly, study what is being said in light of the entirety of the Bible, WITHOUT any extra biblical instruction, going back to the original Greek, if possible. In fact, you will find Paul to be probably the most humble and gracious man (apart from Christ himself) to have ever walked this earth. He had a lot to be humble about. He was in no position to feel superior to anyone, considering his history. He had previously been all of those things listed above. He had even gone to the point of standing by and holding the coats of the Pharisees who were stoning a man to death for the crime of preaching Christ. He had committed the greatest crimes against Christ that were possible to commit. When Paul’s eyes were opened, he saw some terrible, terrible things about himself and all the foundations on which he stood crumbled in a moment. For me, it is one of the most ill things I’ve had to encounter (and continue to encounter), to see this man used to validate ideas about patriotism, sectarianism and submission. Those being the very things he was trying to clarify! If you do get a chance to study the topics that Paul wrote about (which he wrote usually from prison) please do not be swayed by the prejudices of your background or the oppressive slants of your society. His words are truly full of life and health and light. I would not be able to do without them.
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