Paul sometimes sounds like he may have been a difficult person to like. His letters seem full of confrontation, lectures, and reproach. He seems rigid in his demands.
I’ve sometimes pictured the Apostle Paul traveling all alone through danger, hunger, and storm, from city to unfriendly city, chased out sometimes, welcomed briefly at other times. If that is the case, no wonder he wasn’t patient in his letters whenever trouble started in his churches.
Did Paul have any friends?
We have a high regard for friendships in Canada. Parents will sometimes say, “I want my child to think of me as a friend.” Greek and Roman culture had developed a philosophy of around close friendships between men as the greatest relationship. As an educated Roman citizen, did Paul work alone?
Scot McKnight offers a surprising answer. Paul did not call anyone a friend.
Paul called them family. He called the people he worked with, “my sister” and, “my brother”. He called the churches he led, “my beloved.” This was something new in the Jewish and Roman world but Paul did not start it. This came from Paul’s Lord.
Jesus created a new family: the church.
When Jesus called people, he began by calling siblings. We are meant to have a deep love for each other as newly made brothers and sisters, across all our differences. Sometimes it requires lots of grace and forgiveness. Often it is wonderful. Sometimes, our church family is what gets us through tough times like Covid-19.
This Sunday, we will gather around a meal that unites us. Whether you take part from home or come in person, may God fill all our hearts with love for one another.