I still don’t believe Lance juiced.
I have laughingly tweeted that out a few times lately. I’m being facetious. Honestly, I don’t care.
I followed every Tour de France that Armstrong won. I watched as he destroyed other juiced up cyclists and, as we now know, lied about being juiced himself. I read his biography and concluded that he was a great cyclist and arrogant human being. I pulled for him to win, but would have never wanted him to babysit my children. I really don’t care if he juiced because everyone else in the Tour was juicing as well.
But here’s the thing.
There are people who will make excuses for him because they like him. Hey, Barry Bonds was a Hall of Famer before he ever hit 72 homeruns in a season. Mark McGuire hit 49 during his rookie season when he was a skinny runt. Roger Clemens was a great pitcher in 1986 with the hated Red Sox.
People will stand up for people when they like them. They will demonize those that they don’t.
We see that in the church. If someone you like makes a mistake, you cut them slack. If you don’t, then let’s cut them out of our lives completely.
That shouldn’t be so. We should call a spade a spade.
Did Paul like Mark? I don’t know. But I’m willing to bet that he and Barnabas were good friends. Paul was willing to let his working relationship with Barnabas slide because he didn’t find Mark to be reliable enough to take on a missionary journey. Paul did what he thought was right. Did he agonize over it? Perhaps. But I know that his main concern was proclaiming the gospel. So, Paul and Silas hit the road together. Barnabas and Mark went in another direction. Maybe they all made up because Paul later references Mark in his epistles. I hope they did.
We all have a tendency to cut some slack when personal feelings are involved. Or to write someone off. We don’t need to go to either extreme. Did Paul make a mistake or did Barnabas? I’m not sure. Either way there was some reconciliation later. I’m willing to bet that both sides were willing to compromise some on their position.
Do you ever tend to give someone the benefit of the doubt because you like them? Do you tend to pass judgment quickly when you don’t?
Yesterday, I suggested that many of us simply do not know who we are. More to the point, many of us who follow Christ do not know who we are in Christ in our lives. Paul gives us a glimpse in the salutations of his letters that he knew exactly who he was. Yesterday, I explored that Paul was a bondservant of Christ, a willing slave to the Lord. Today, I want to discuss his calling.
Paul says that he was called as an apostle. In fact, if we looked deeper into his life, Paul would say that he was set apart before birth to be an apostle of the Gentiles. I find that amazing that, in retrospect, Paul sees that God chose him before he was even born for the task that was before him. What are we to glean from this? God was uniquely interested in each of us before we were born. I don’t think this was simply designated for a few guys like Jeremiah or Paul or anyone else that we think are spiritual superstars.
Dig into what Paul says though. He was called. He had a calling. Yes, it was dramatic. He was knocked off his horse and blinded on the Damascus Road, but he was called nonetheless. A lot of us probably think Paul jumped right into the apostleship game. That’s not correct. It was somewhere in the neighborhood of fourteen years before he ever began his missionary journeys. He spent time away from Jerusalem. He spent time in the local church. He learned. He proved himself. Then the Holy Spirit and the church selected him and Barnabas to hit the road.
We need to realize that we have a calling. We are uniquely gifted. And it may take time to ultimately get to where and what God is calling us to. We could even look at Mark. He failed. He failed Paul and Barnabas. He was to them like Yoko Ono was to the Beatles. Yet later he was fruitful to Paul’s ministry. He wrote a Gospel. It just took time to get to realize his calling.
Finally, he was called to a specific role. He was called to be an apostle. Not many were. Others were called to do other things. Yet Paul did not consider his calling to be higher than anyone else’s. He was still a bondservant of Christ. He simply wanted to fulfill the role that God gave him so that he could glorify Christ.
Who are you?
About eleven years ago, I walked in to my 8 a.m. Greek class during my one and only year in seminary. The professor was a Ph. D. student from Cameroon with a very thick accent. He introduced himself this way: “My name is Philemon Yong.” Say his name real fast a time or two and you will realize why we all, including the professor, had a good laugh to start off our class.
I lead off with that because we were studying Philemon in Sunday School recently. What I saw were two things that truly stood out to me. One I had seen before, but hadn’t thought of in a long time. The other is relatively new.
Both came near the end of the epistle and had absolutely nothing to do with the lesson.
The first is contained in one word. Mark. Paul just kind of slides it in there very nonchalantly. Mark. He includes him in a list of other guys that he describes as fellow workers. This might not sound terribly important if we didn’t know what happened a few years before.
Mark had gone on a trip with Paul and Barnabas, but ended up abandoning them. As Paul and Barnabas began making plans for another trip, Barnabas wanted to take Mark along again. Paul said no. They disagreed so much that they ended their partnership. They went their separate ways.
Yet, here is Mark with Paul years later. What happened? I don’t know all of the details, but one word had to have happened.
Somewhere along the way, Paul and Mark reconciled. We don’t know if Paul and Barnabas did, but I hope so. We do know that Mark became one of Paul’s fellow workers. In the end, what the Gospel is about was lived out in Paul’s and Mark’s life. They reconciled their differences. Forgiveness happened. Work ensued.
The other thing I noticed was the list in general. Epaphras. Mark. Aristarchus. Demas. Luke. These guys were part of what these days we call a tribe. They joined together with Paul. He invested in them. He poured himself into them. He nurtured them in the faith.
This is just a small list of people who were part of Paul’s tribe. Read his letters and you will find others. What we see is that Paul, the super apostle, was not in it by himself. He wasn’t off flying solo. He had a team. He had a group. He had helpers. Another way to put it is like this.
No matter what we are involved in, we can’t do it all by ourselves. We have to have help. That’s why it’s important to be connected to the Body of Christ. We each have our role and purpose. Without the others, we can’t function.
Are these all of the lessons that we can learn from Paul or his letter to Philemon? Hardly. But reconciliation and community will go a long way.
Reconciliation and Community. Two great lessons we learn from Paul.
Do you need to reconcile with anyone in the Body of Christ? Do you have a community of fellow believers to help you with your relationship with the Lord?