Monday, October 24, 2005

Who Has Your Back?

What was Paul of the New Testament like? What did he look like?

Below, Paul gives our imagination a working as he describes what he has been through and it may lead to what he may have looked like.

2 Corinthians 11:21
What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Erwin McManus when referring to this text asks the question “Tell me again that the safest place to be is at the center of GOD’s will!?”

The key verses are 24, 25, 26. Here we read that Paul received 39 lashes – FIVE TIMES! That has to be at least 195 scars on his BACK…what was he saying? Maybe in though 5 times he was brought to the brink of death!?

3 times he was beaten with rods by Romans…What was the crime? Paul was a Roman citizen. Was he beaten for insurrection or treason? Did he keep quiet and not let the authorities know that he was a Roman citizen? Or did he start riots? Did he consider himself a citizen of a higher kingdom? Those rods were not broom sticks they were probably baseball bat like. Imagine how Paul had to protect himself, wrapping his arms around his head, protecting the most sensitive parts of his body…so what was left exposed? His back.

How many bones of Paul’s body were broken after these beatings, not just once but many times? Especially his BACK!

He was even stoned once. This was the Jewish form of capital punishment… Was he really saying that he was killed? Because in Acts 14 they dragged Paul outside of the city and they thought he was dead. When people throw objects at you what do you do? You cover your head and go into a fetal position…what is exposed? Your BACK.

Now, try to think of Paul without thinking about his back and all the punishment that it took…

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete) who is also our battle companion. And even when we have the presence of the Holy Spirit and good friends covering our back isn’t interesting that the whips, and the rods and the stones still get through, do they not? The rods, the whips and the stones…they still connect, they still scar.

As I read Acts 14 “They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” I wonder…did Paul die? Did the disciples pray over him and he was raised from the dead? HEY, where were the disciples when Paul was being stoned? I thought they would have his back!!! Why did they gather around Paul outside of the city? Why did they not cover his back?

But look at what Paul did…He got up and went back into the city.
WOW…imagine that…they thought you were dead and then you show up again!

If you consider yourself a leader…show me your back.
Is it a clean back? Or is it full of scars, bruises and broken bones?
Followers of Christ need people to “cover our back.” Nobody has made a difference for GOD without them having people “say we will cover your back.” I know this is true in my life and it has been conveyed to me over and over again by people who surround me. And that is a wonderful comfort. But even when our “backs are covered” the whips, rocks and rods still get through. So in spite of our pain and injury, can we still get up and walk right back into the face of the very thing that has caused our pain?



curly said...

i think what's most interesting is that the first place i thought of as the "city" where i was hurt, was the church. though i have been hurt there so many times, i have walked back in. but here lately, i'm wondering if it's time to walk back in, or if God's directing me to a new "city."

SoulPastor said...

Interesting word picture!
Curly, what is your story?

curly said...

well, i'm a 30 year old single (happily, thank you very much!) female, living in austin, texas. my parents were part of the Jesus people explosion in southern california in the late 60s/early 70s, and so i was raised in a Christian home. i am not sure if i was "saved" as a kid though. i don't think i ever really "got it" back then. i walked away from the Lord when i left home and went to college, and i only came back in late 2000.

so i've been walking with the Lord for almost 5 years now, and while i feel like i love Him more than ever, i feel more disillusioned than ever with western Christianity and what we do as "church."

i love my church; i love the people in it. but it feels so empty to me. for all their honest, sincere attempts to be gracious and manifest God's grace, it feels so horribly legalistic. for all the intellectual agreement with the ideas that faith is not about works, we seem so focused on works - externally visible signs - in people's lives. i feel so judged there. i feel like i have to constantly explain myself, explain that i am sick and that i can't be there every week. sometimes i can't be there for many weeks at a time!

for all the talk of community and relationship, i feel so little of that happening. i've been thinking about this a lot lately:

matthew 25:34-36 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

i've been sick for over a year, and i could count on one hand the number of people that have visited me. please understand, i'm not angry, and i am as guilty of failing here as anyone. but, i feel like what i am experiencing of church is deeply broken.

i'm so tired of judgementalism within the church of the outside world. i'm not saying we should abandon the truth, but it so often feels like we've abandoned love? the whole "gay marriage" discussion is the example of this that most readily comes to mind.

i am so sick of churches existing soley for believers, doing ministry soley for believers. why doesn't my church reach out to the community around it? why does it feel so often like church is a retreat from the world instead of an outreach to the world?

i am desperate to find some people that love Jesus desperately and see this stuff, too. i don't want to forsake the gathering together of believers. but i don't want to do it in a fake, empty, legalistic way. i want to do it in a way that is a real community - a real group of people living life together.

so, i'm looking. i found your blog through looking around "emerging church" sites, and blogs, etc. and i like what i read.

so, long story...:)

Paul & Wanda Moores said...

Hi Gerry. It's Paul from Vancouver. Really enjoyed getting to know you last week. Glad to see that "back" devotional had the same impact on you as it did me. Just wanted to connect. My blog is The guys who's planting withus is Peace Out. Have you succeeded in making your church a meChurch yet (ha, ha).

Len said... well, once I had to skip lunch...
Seriously, it's a great question.. and I am confronted by my own poverty of spirit. Mostly though.. I am confronted and amazed that God bothers with me at all...

SoulPastor said...


WOW, What a story.
I hear can feel your frustration. Here is my word of encouragement. Do not give up on the church that you attend. But in the strength that you have continue to be a catalyst of change. Be the one who can point the believers to the community around, even if you look like the idiot.
Personally, I pushed until I was pushed out. You do the same. Draw attention to the needs of people outside of the walls of the church, be a spokesperson for them. Maybe, just maybe people in your congregation will "get it!"
If you are pushed out, that is ok...find a community of faith that shares the burden and demonstrates it.
I know that our cultures are different but our GOD is not. So continue to speak out, reach out and be the woman that GOD created you to be!
Be Blessed