Paul, Apostle of Love

Many commentators, and indeed, the informed general public, perceive a discrepancy between the open and generous message of Jesus preaching nonviolence and love, and your own theological concerns, which seem narrow, even stifling, to a contemporary audience. Would you care to comment?"

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

"While we, and I’m sure Jesus himself, would agree that these are all admirable qualities, they are rather general in nature. Could you be more specific?"

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. . . . Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. . . . Never avenge yourselves. . . . ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. . . .’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

"You are known to be an insightful, if often obtuse, germinal thinker. A man of ideas whose theological reflections altered the course of Christian history. Can you share some of the major influences, Greek and Middle Eastern as well as Hebrew, that have shaped your evolving theology?"

"I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling."

"Jesus is said to have washed his disciples’ feet. To have been a humble man, with a simple message of love, who lived among the outcasts of society. Your ministry has been associated with a more ambitious endeavor: to create a worldwide church organization, run by a select few, in the name of a more imperial and judgmental Christ. How do you reconcile the Christ you preach with the gentle Jesus of the Gospels?"

"We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called . . . the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world . . . so that no one might boast in the presence of God."

"Still you must admit that the words of Jesus on love contrast sharply with the demands you make for faith alone; for doctrines that many find contrary to reason and science. In your zeal to promote this theological Christ aren’t you open to the charge of neglecting love? Of losing touch with humanity’s most treasured possession?"

"If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. . . . Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. . . . Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. . . . Faith, hope and love abide, these three; and greatest of these is love."

"Your words on love are quite eloquent. But some have questioned how they relate to your own life and the life of the churches you founded."

When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving . . . that they would not see him, again. Then they brought him to the ship [bound for Jerusalem, and Rome, and his death on a cross].

John Pitts Corry

John Pitts Corry is a member of Middletown Meeting in Lima, Pa. For those without a concordance handy, the Scripture references are: Gal. 5:22; Rom. 12:14-21; 1 Cor. 2:1-3; 1 Cor. 1:23-29; 1 Cor. 13:2-13; and Acts 20:36-38. © 2002 John Pitts Corry