To Know a Great Man

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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St. Paul is a first-century Christian hero for two reasons. First, in his faithfully following Jesus Christ, he gave his generation the good news of truth and grace. Twenty centuries later, we also are benefactors of the letters Paul wrote to his friends. Second, because he lived out the grace of Jesus Christ toward the people who came across his path.

In the Roman colonial city of Philippi, Paul and his friend Silas were beaten with rods and put in prison. That very night, at midnight, an earthquake broke open the securing bar of the prison cell and the door jams of the main gate. While the guard continued to sleep, Paul and Silas could easily have made a break, but they didn’t. Paul knew that Roman military tradition did not forgive the loss of a prisoner. When the guard awoke and saw the doors ajar, he moved to kill himself. But Paul called out, “Don’t harm yourself–we are all here.” The guard encountered God’s grace on his behalf: two prisoners waiting for a guard to wake up so they could save his life.

From that late night encounter with the concrete love of God, a Roman guard and his whole family became Christians. No wonder Paul held particular tenderness toward the Philippian church. Paul and Silas did not save their jailor, but their willingness to risk—stemming from their own encounters with Jesus Christ’s sacrificial love—played a major role. Jesus himself, on an earlier day, had waited for Paul to wake up from his long night of the soul, then found him on a road to Damascus. Paul never forgot the love that saved him, and that love spurred his willingness to take risks in favor of the people who became a part of his journey.

Paul writes to the Corinthians, describing the integrating power of Christ’s sacrificial love. “For the love of Christ holds me together, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Cor. 5:14-19).

Paul tells us that Christ’s love has integrated his life and made him whole. Not only that, the love that took our place at the cross grants us the very reconciliation with others that we ourselves experienced in Christ.

Christ is the sacrifice of all time. Jesus’ love for us can move through our lives toward others. And that love takes risks. When we see it happen because ordinary folk share God’s grace to us or near us, we know that we have been in the presence of heroes.