There are times when I intensely dislike the Apostle Paul -- his wordiness, his tendency toward braggadocio, his scoldy schoolmaster tone. I think, if I met this guy at a church conference, I would do whatever it took to get away from him. I suspect that, up close and personal, he was what a friend of mine calls "one of the high-eyebrow people" -- intense to the point of creepiness; a little whoo-hoo. I'm disappointed by what I read as his concessions to the mores of the dominant culture that seem to go against his own vision of the Reign of God.
On the other hand, I sometimes feel sorry for him. It turns out that a lot of Scripture that's been attributed to him -- a lot of the misogynistic stuff that Paul-haters like to quote in order to prove what a jerk he was -- probably wasn't written by him at all. I think he gets quoted out of context; I think he was probably much more socially radical than what he gets credit for. Evidently he lived with a fairly serious physical or emotional problem that caused him anguish.
Sometimes I admire Paul. I admire his grasp on the concept of God's grace, and his chutzpah in arguing for full inclusion of Gentile Christians in the nascent Christian community. I admire his relationships with female leaders in the Christian community; revolutionary stuff for a former Pharisee. I admire his rhetorical skill, as when he addressed the Athenians.
And sometimes, when I think about the things that annoy me about Paul, it occurs to me that many of them are the same things that annoy me about...me.
Today's the day to think about Paul -- another forgiven sinner-saint, saved by the grace of God, called to proclaim the Good News, empowered to be a minister of reconciliation: As we celebrate his conversion, we pray that we may follow his example and be witnesses to the truth in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
"The Conversion of St. Paul," Lucas Cranach the Younger