Garbage Disposal

missionary

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

What is it with Paul? The guy couldn’t live a balanced life if his life depended on it. With Paul it’s a one-side tilts all fun-house of fanaticism, a headlong kamikaze career of unbridled extremism that not only globalized a brand new religion but established craziness as the definitive response to God. Paul is the founding member of Maniacs for Jesus.

Paul was a pretty impressive guy even before his about face on the Jesus thing. He was smart, persuasive, and forceful. Driven, competitive, demanding, relentless—Paul was a triple A-type personality on crank. He graduated summa cum laude from his elite prep school and dominated persecution sports, racking up wins like nobody’s business and establishing himself as the expert on all things religious. His debate trophies crowded the walls. Paul was a religious wunderkind who’s stardom in the Jewish world seemed assured.

Then he went and got himself saved. His Damascus conversion pretty much ruined his standing as a Jewish idol, but it was like spraying jet fuel on a house fire. Paul’s transformation from hard-line Hebrew to Jesus juggernaut was nothing short of mind-blowing. What he discovered on the road so changed him that, for a while, neither the Jews nor the Christians knew what to make of him. Paul went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and we’ve had to live with his devotional insanity ever since.

Paul’s religious passion exhibits symptoms of classic psychosis. He disposes of everything that is not Jesus, considering them, as he says, pure rubbish. This “garbage” includes all the stuff he thought was so cool before, including his achievements, his relationships, and his Jewish club card. He now thinks of them as so much guano compared to this new revelation of Jesus Christ.

So what does it mean that Christianity’s greatest champion was a bona fide religious nutcase? A chronic, low-grade embarrassment, for one thing. No question about it: our boy is a lunatic. It also means that a tepid, well-balanced Christianity is definitely not the Bible’s preferred response to the Jesus guy. Paul assumes that his theo-mania is the default setting for everybody who got their keisters saved from the dump. Manageable, respectable, hip Christianity is out; ignominious, cringeworthy fanaticism is in.

But I’m sure you have a good excuse. I’ve got mine ready.

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