While reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians, I find new hope for the constant struggle with my own thorn in the flesh. Hearing a well respected Paul admit to his thorn sometimes seems less than adequate given that it was perhaps more physical than spiritual. However, when I hear the repeated awareness of our human dilemma among those with whom I better relate, it gives me hope.
In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul the recently converted terrorist, having apparently spent a couple or more years in the faith, runs into that disciple with whom I can truly relate, Peter. Years after Peter’s phenomenal Pentecost experience, he is still battling his fear of what others might think. Here, Paul scorns him for requiring of new converts the practice of the Law. This was counter to what in Paul’s early days the elders in the Church, and perhaps even the fickle Peter had required of Paul: “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing that I was eager to do.” Gal 2:10 NIV.
By the way, these minimal requirements were not so different than the two qualifiers suggested earlier by our Lord: Love God and your neighbor as yourself!
Why does all this give me hope?
If Peter could be used by God in such a phenomenal way after:
- his pre-crucifixion triple denial;
- his quick return to his old profession (fishing, John 21) only days after the cruel execution of his friend, and having been told personally by the Christ what his role would be in the Kingdom;
- then, experiencing the Resurrected Christ in person,
- yet, all the while carrying a personal and prideful fear of what others might think!
There is hope for this 66 year old, now 40 years in the faith!