"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." Albert Einstein
Well Gentle reader,
We now come to the most difficult face or phase of Paul in my mind, if you have followed my thoughts like Alice following the white rabbit you have already seen that it could have been possible for Paul to not only been liberal in his thinking but also radical. But when we come to this third face that I will call the reactionary or conservative Paul, and perhaps reactionary would be more appropriate a term than conservative.
A reactionary is an individual that holds reactionary viewpoints which cause them to seek to return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society They are at best obscurant, those who opposes intellectual advancement and reform, whether social or political. You can identify them as they would be characterized by opposition to intellectual advancement ...
Look with me at Titus Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (Tit 2:9-10 KJV). Now to be fair we would point out that in my dating of Paul’s corpus we would place Titus about 66 or 67 A.D., which would not give any trouble to those who hold that Titus was one of those letters that was not really written by Paul but was written under his name. They would be considered to be anti-Pauline on certain subjects, for example in the area that we have chosen to write about slavery. And again it would have been easy to accept that and go on. However gentle reader, I am, and I hope you not content with taking the easy answer. For in rejecting the easy way and choosing rather the difficult path, is how we stumble into a great truths looking for answers that other don’t bother to seek.
In a story told in many traditions and versions; a man is crouched over the ground at night under a lamppost obviously looking for something. A passerby asks, "Have you lost something?", "Yes, my key," he says. "Did you lose it here?" "No", he says, "over there, but there's light over here."
So for now gentle reader we’ll continue and come back to this question. In Titus Paul speaks only about slaves, unlike Colossians and Ephesians, not directly "Tell slaves..." and says nothing to their masters "be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things " There is no mutuality or reciprocity of obligation in this one sided admonition.
It certainly seems as though based on my dating that Paul has had a change of heart and gone backward in his thinking. So thinking this through, we might have said that Paul being in prison, and wanting to be released (as a aside- my wife, Marti and myself, can understand Paul’s desire to be released - as Marti has been bed fast for more than 15 years now with M.E., and after all the friends and family have managed to move on with their lives, we are left alone feeling abandon and I as the only care giver who cares). I might point out that because I cannot leave my wife for a long period of time that I usually go to the 24 hour market in the wee hours of the morning and tell the grocers that "I am on a work release program".
No wonder that runaway slave Onesimus, would have been to Paul a "God send"!
So how great a love Paul must have had for this little stray coming to Rome looking for him (Paul) to help him (Onessimus), which if you would ask my opinion, well go ahead ask! I would tell you this is a mark of what one could see as true authentic Christianity. From Onessimus in going to Rome for help from Paul and staying to help. And then from Paul, writing a 25 line letter to Philemon sending Onessimus for the purpose of reconciliation!
And now Gentle reader, we need to get a handle on what appears to have been Paul’s change of heart, from the writing of Philemon, with the intention of to work upon the mind of the master to reconcile him to his servant.
Not often do we hear the subject of "reconciliation" taught in our churches now days but we do hear in Evangelical circles about "sin’ and judgement" about which not many have a clue what the Holy Spirit of God inspired Paul to write.
What prompted Paul to write to Titus in the manner that he did? I think that we can find a wee clue in Paul’s salutation to Titus Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; (Tit 1:1 KJV).
Here is what I believe the key to that seeming step into that obscurant behavior. He often uses the word servant in the English but doulas in the Greek which means a bond slave, which emphasizes the totality of submissiveness. Sometimes he uses the work hooperatace, which means under-rower which emphasizes the utter base lowliness.
And so whether he sees himself as a common servant, as a submissive servant, or as a lowly servant, he ever and always is a servant. That's a basic identification mark of the Apostle Paul. And so Gentle Reader, now you may understand why it seemed that Paul had turned his back on the grace of God to become a reactionary, a conservative if you will, going back to the slave owners, the ruling class. Paul was writing as one lowly slave to another. As he wrote this he was reminding himself what God had ask him to do and to be!
Paul saw himself as a servant. And that was is the key to everything. Some years ago, John Stott wrote, "I cannot help wondering if this may not be why there are so few preachers whom God is using mightily today. There are plenty of popular preachers, but not many powerful ones who preach in the power of the Spirit. Is it because the cost of such preaching is too great? It seems that the only preaching God honors through which his wisdom and power are expressed is the preaching of a man who is willing in himself to be both a weakling and a fool. God not only chooses weak and foolish people to save, but weak and foolish preachers through whom to save them, or at least preachers who are content to be weak and seem foolish in the eyes of the world. We're not always willing to pay this price. We are constantly tempted to covet a reputation as men of learning or men of influence, to seek honor in academic circles and compromise our old fashioned message in order to do so and to cultivate personal charm or forcefulness so as to sway the people committed to our care."
For only those who as the old expression goes walk in the footsteps of another will truly understand. "If we would take even a few steps in the path of another person, being observant and open, what might we learn!"
Next time we’ll try to piece this wee subject together so that you get the entire picture.
Grace and peace,