What do Mosab Hassan Yousef, two women from First Baptist of Wheaton, and Ron Hutchcraft have in common?
They remind us of the Apostle Paul.
Following the departure of our “Footsteps of Paul” tour group, Mike and I are spending our final weekend in Greece in the port city of Nafplio, the former capital. There are lots of Greek families here on holiday, and we are resting in the extraordinary beauty of this elegant city that boasts 17th century Venetian architecture and marble streets.
Our hotelier recommended an inexpensive outdoor cafe called Alaloum where we enjoyed one of the finest meals of our lives. (When we expressed our gratitude later, she nodded and said, “Neh, neh (yes, yes) Alaloum is where the Greeks go – not the tourists!”) So maybe we’ve become a bit Hellenistic after our sojourn in this gorgeous country.
As we lingered over our late meal and I fed bits of chicken to a stray cat, Mike and I talked about the Apostle Paul. We’ve been studying his letters to the churches of Greece and Asia Minor (now Turkey) on site for a full month now, so I asked Mike which of Paul’s personal characteristics most impressed him.
He mentioned the following three, and as I scrawled them on a paper napkin I thought of people back in the US whose lives reflect these same qualities:
(1) The breadth of his personality. “Paul was so powerful in his theological apologetic that he infuriated his opponents,” Mike commented, “yet he was so tender in his love that Ephesian believers wept when they parted with him at the beach of Miletus.”
When we logged onto email last night for the first time in nearly a week, Mike and I rejoiced at the news that Mosab Hassan Yousef, a dear friend to the Tyndale publishing family, has been granted political asylum in the US. The author of the recent release Son of Hamas, Mosab was under threat of deportation back to the Middle East where he would have faced almost certain death due to his activities on behalf of Israeli intelligence. Mosab’s boldness in sharing his Christian faith could cost him his life, yet when he shared his testimony at a recent chapel service his heart was so tender with love for his family that he choked on his own tears.
(2) The depth of his endurance. “Paul was a middle-aged man who was stoned, beaten, and imprisoned multiple times, yet he traversed thousands of miles on foot out of sheer love of the gospel message,” Mike reflected last night. “How does a person do that when they are so battered and bruised?!”
Last night’s email also brought word to us of two women in our local church who are enduring heavy trials. One nearly lost her son in an industrial accident and now her husband is urgently in need of a heart transplant. The other has suffered greatly due to the behavior of her former spouse who is presently using the legal system to emotionally batter her. Yet both women are strong in their faith, committed to their work, and a testimony of endurance to those around them. In my eyes they are modern-day Paulines.
(3) The scope of his relationships. “As a Pharisee, Paul was a Jews’ Jew, and in his day Jews only related to fellow Jews,” Mike said as we finished our meal over slices of local melon. “But before the end of his ministry, Paul had built relationships with nearly every variety of person this planet can produce. When he sat in the marketplace of Corinth, he didn’t care what ‘class’ people belonged to as long as he could share with them the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Every time we hear evangelist Ron Hutchcraft speaking on WMBI or teaching at a seminar, we are struck anew by his passion for Christ and the reach of his relationships. We just heard last night that over a dozen young Native Americans came to Christ at a Native Leadership conference this past week in Missouri. Like the Apostle Paul, Ron has traveled countless miles in less than ideal conditions to share the hope within him.
As our time walking in the land where the Word was written nears its close, we are thanking God for these modern-day Pauls…and Paulines.