While Jesus Christ is, of course, the ultimate superhero, St. Paul should definitely be seen as a hero. I could go into a discussion of how Paul can be seen as a hero in classical terms – but I’ll spare you.
But by almost any definition, Paul is a hero and should be considered as such. Here are a few definitions of “hero”:
1. In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods (with just a few substitutions, this definition fits Paul very well)
2. A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.
3. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field.
4. The principal male character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation (think of the second half of the book of Acts.)
When you see Paul as a hero, it transforms Paul’s list of heroic exploits in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 from just another list of things he has suffered, such as that in Chapter 6, into a summary of heroic adventures in the Kingdom of God that Paul has survived.
I know that I discussed Paul’s list in Chapter 6 last week, but this list is, to me, the most shocking and inspiring picture of how we are to act as God’s ministers in the entire Bible. Paul’s suffering on behalf of the Christ who suffered for him, which occurs in the context of suffering for the gospel and the Church, is almost incalculable. After a careful reading of Paul’s ministry here in 2 Corinthians we can all wave “Bye bye” to the health and wealth gospel!
But go back and read all of Paul’s physical sufferings – about his stripes, imprisonments, whippings, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, journeys, hungers, and thirsts – and imagine that each one of these represents a different adventure that the hero Paul underwent for the sake of Jesus Christ. Each one tells a story of Christian heroism, in which the hero is weak and failing, but in his weakness is made strong by the grace of God.
Go back and read Acts Chapters 13-28 in terms of Paul’s heroism and adventures, and you will see him in a different light.
As amazing and even spectacular as Paul’s adventures in physical suffering are, believe it or not they are not as exciting to me as his other adventures, the ones that are less glamorous and yet more exciting because they are more like my experiences and yours. Not many of us will be tortured, imprisoned, or threatened with death because of our faith. But many of us will experience the other kind of adventure the hero Paul had.
What are Paul’s other adventures? They are the times that he was weary or tired because he had been ministering to the needs of the saints. This more mundane adventure includes the times when Paul suffered because of his concern for all of the churches under his care and for the needs of individual Christians. His adventures include the adventures of his spirit which is weak when others are made weak, and yet finds strength in Christ and which burns with indignation when a Christian stumbles.
These adventures excite me because they are my heroic adventures, and they can be your heroic adventures. What excites me is when I see the heroics of a mother of young children and of godly parents in general, slaying the dragons of selfishness and ease that they might train their children up in the Lord, spending themselves on their children, and investing in the true future. And what about the heroics of young men and women who go off to college and survive the temptations of Vanity Fair and the destructions of Apollyon?
It’s true that many of our adventures are not worth telling, but this is not because they are so small but because we have not been victorious in them. Every day, our God has placed us in a new adventure in His Kingdom, and every day there are monsters of greed, lust, anger, covetousness, sloth, gluttony, and many other varieties to be slain. Every day there are parts of ourselves and the lives of others that must be rescued from certain danger, and we have been equipped to assist in a daring rescue operation, if only we’d volunteer.
Perhaps the most exciting adventure that St. Paul or any of us will ever have is to rescue that damsel in distress, the Bride of Christ, from the many villains that seek to seduce, pollute, or abduct her.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
Isn’t that what we ought to do with every true hero?
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that through Your power St. Paul was able to subdue all of the enemies he faced that assaulted his body, his mind, and his soul. I ask today for Your daily strength to assist me in the adventures in Your kingdom to which You have called me today. May the love of the Father, the obedience of the Son, and the courage of the Holy Spirit be with me today.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve today to meditate on the heroic adventures that exist in my life. List some of these and meditate in detail on at least one area of ministry you know God has called you to that you struggle with. Imagine it as a heroic adventure undertaken for your Lord.
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day