Saturday, October 04, 2008

Musing on Peter and Paul

For a recent writing assignment, I’ve been digging through Luke’s account of the early church in his “book” to Theophilus, and I’m finding myself a bit preoccupied with Peter and Paul.

It’s interesting, the two of them. Paul starts out in the highest ranks of authority, a zealous Pharisee. A mind sharp as a sword with a drive and focus to match. Funny how this previously power-entrenched man ends up as far from the central hub of the early church as he can get, spending most of his early years after that encounter with Jesus outside Damascus sequestered in Arabia and Tarsus, then years upon years on the road throughout the known world. Only a few times does he head back to Jerusalem, and even then he doesn’t really seem to enjoy it. As if he’s “been there, done that” and has no interest. It strikes me that for him things seem to have boiled down in simplicity and focus. His heart is elsewhere.

And Peter, a fisherman. I imagine him burly, good-hearted, with a laugh that starts from the stomach, who wears his emotions on his sleeve. Not at all like the painting above. I resonate a lot with Peter, his passion and inordinate ability to put his foot in his mouth. I think his heart was always in the right place, but (as my husband often loves to say) “the heart is deceitful above all things.” But I tend to think that, for the most part, his mistakes aren’t selfish or malicious; even his bad choice to hob-knob-it with the Jewish folks instead of Gentiles in Antioch (something on which Paul actually calls him) I can’t help but think most likely came out of a desire to see his Jewish friends soothed more than any egotistical or self-preservation motive—and I’ve got no doubt he was quick to repent from his mistake with great remorse and determination, as always. But then maybe it's my own empathy with the guy that makes me think so. Either way, it is this fisherman at the center of the hub in Jerusalem for much of his life. A good call on the Spirit’s part, I think. A good-hearted, humble man with little desire for fame or power and a passion for and utter gratefulness to his Master and Lord that is hard to match.

So, there they are in Luke’s pages, two apostles, as different in many ways as night and day. Yet each as important to the early kingdom-coming world as the other. Both of them untangling the extras and bindings of religion so many for some reason desire to layer back upon us, leaving Jesus shining, clear and beautiful.

(Image: St. Paul and St Peter by El Greco)

2 comments:

Ken Brown said...

That's funny, I just so happen to be preparing to teach a Graduate Seminar on Paul's conversion/call to serve the Gentiles. I've got to admit, I've been so immersed in academic questions of Jewish religion and Paul's changed view of the Law that it's good to be reminded of the more personal aspect of all this: the Spirit's wonderfully diverse work in our lives.

Thanks and God bless!

Carmen Andres said...

lol, the temptation to go academic on Scripture is one of mine as well. though, of course, i'm not putting together a grad class in the subject, eek. good luck with that!