Yes, the witness of Paul was and remains that important. But the profound significance of his witness made Paul’s life much more difficult. He witnessed to Jesus in a world that had always been Olympian, in Jewish synagogues that had become Olympian, and in opposition to Church leaders who remained Olympian.
Olympianity has always been the religion of power. Olympians always meet challenges to their beliefs, values, norms, goals, and stories with whatever is needed, from ridicule to murder, to end them.
Paul witnessed to Jesus in a world that had always been Olympian. In
Paul witnessed to Jesus in Jewish synagogues that had become Olympian. His co-religionists in Thessalonica managed to cause such a commotion that Paul’s unconventional new companions thought it best for him to leave the city. Later his new companions faced persecution themselves. Trouble followed him to
Ironically, Paul witnessed to Jesus in opposition to Church leaders who nonetheless remained Olympian. Barnabas refused to work with him. James the brother of Jesus, leader of the church in
We might imagine that, if we are good Christians, then Jesus will bless us with happiness in this life and the next. Or at least, if we are good Christians, then people will like us. Or maybe even, if we are happy and popular, then we must be good Christians.
In truth, the more we are like Jesus, or the more we are like Paul in the clarity of his witness to Jesus, the more we will suffer. In truth, to live as a witness to Jesus is to embrace suffering we could otherwise easily avoid.
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