Wednesday, June 29, 2011

These were real people.

I've gotten to the part of my Bible reading where you start getting into all those little short New Testament books, like Titus and Philemon.  There are many little chapters and verses which have some standalone recognition in that part of the Bible.  (There are probably a few thousand women's Bible studies on Titus 2, alone.)  But there was a few simple little verse at the end of II Timothy, in chapter 4, that caught my attention:

13The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

The beautiful simplicity of this verse struck me for the first time with the fact that Paul was a real man, who lived and walked on the earth, and this is the actual words he wrote to his fellow believers.  In between all the beautiful poetry and doctrine of the scriptures, is a guy asking his friends to bring some of his stuff with them when they come to see him.  (And as a fellow lover of the written word, I can greatly relate to his urging, "especially the parchments".)

This would be like if, a thousand years from now, Christians studying our church in this age were reading the e-mails our LifeGroup sends out to each other.  "Please pray for X's job interview, and will the Y family still be able to provide dinner next week?"

Being able to relate to it in that way just makes the whole story more real for me, somehow.  I can imagine Paul in a foreign land or, (once again) imprisoned, wishing he had his cloak to protect against the cold and wanting his books and parchment so he could read and continue his ministry.  It just makes Paul someone I can understand a little better.  Though I have, fortunately, never been in jail (yet), I've been stuck in a hospital bed more times than I care to count, and the first thing I've always asked my husband for is books.  I rank mental entertainment right up there with food and shelter on the list of human needs, and the image of Paul asking his friends for books gives him more flesh and bone than anything else I could read about him.

Obviously, I'm not discounting the utmost significance of all the letters of encouragement, instruction, and teachings he wrote.  But when I read those before, no matter how much they might move me, they were still impersonal.  I was reading "the Bible" not "Paul's letters".

But it really gives my faith new life to remember that the early Christians weren't angels, but just people, too.

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