We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.2 Corinthians 6:8b-10 RSV
As the apostle Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire, we learn from Scripture that he was frequently accused of being crazy. People heard his testimony of his remarkable experience on the Damascus road. They saw his dedication and his commitment to life, which took him away from comforts and pleasures, and they said he was crazy. In fact, Festus, a Roman governor in the book of Acts, said to Paul's face one day,
You are out of your mind, Paul! . . . Your great learning is driving you insane (Acts 26:24). But the apostle did not seem to mind this.
We seem generously supplied today with a variety of steely-eyed fanatics who are quick to point their fingers and are full of passionate speeches. Since many of them claim to be Christians, it raises the question of whether the early Christians really were like that. Do you have to be a fanatic to be a Christian? Listen to the apostle Paul's description of his own life and how he describes his own sense of dedication:
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on (2 Corinthians 6:4-8a).
Is that fanaticism? If it is, I feel like the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon, who, when he was told that Paul's conversion on the Damascus road was really caused by a fit of epilepsy, said,
Oh, blessed epilepsy! Would that every man in London could experience epilepsy like that! So if this is fanaticism, then I say,
Would that every one of us were fanatics like this! What a magnificent description of a God-honoring life! What a marvelous pattern is held before us. Here is what the
ministry of reconciliation will really look like when it is lived out to the full. You and I may fall far short of a description like this. I feel I do. But though we may not equal in degree the way the apostle lived, we are all called to be like this in kind.
Thank You, Heavenly Father, for the witness of this record of the great apostle as he lived through the pressures and the calamities of his own time. Grant to me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the same sensible fanaticism as Paul.
Following Jesus is a radical, other-worldly calling. If we were accused of being truly Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?