“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2).”
Did Paul bear his tragedies with dignity? I find it hard to believe he did.
Often times, in his letters, he frets about the trials he endured. He seems to live in the past. He can't move past things, and forgive his tormentors, and he never prays that they are saved. Instead, he viciously "hands Hymeneaus over to Satan" and wishes harm and evil on others. He does not even say this regrettably, as in, "I unfortunately had to hand him over.." He says it more with glee, satisfaction that, "I have handed him over to Satan!" He seems like a distorted man.
Consider how dying is an art.
It's always a pause, and a deep nod to those who die graciously, with dignity. Some how, they have a sort of rare strength, and they never felt slighted by their hand in life. They take it all for what it is. And they die a very noble death.
Not all people die heroically. Most people die very normal, routine deaths. But we hear stories in the news and in inspiring articles about people who touched others throughout their lives, even unto their end.
Was this what Paul did? I don't see that either.
He pompously declares he's going to go to Jerusalem no matter what God says, he says he's ready to be bound. When he's taken into custody, he causes a scene in the court of Festus and demands to be given an audience with Caesar. He believes he's been wronged. He demands justice!
Jesus, as a lamb, He never resisted His captors. He never disputed the charges against Him. He patiently endured His trials, as the most innocent Man to endure it, and He suffered cruel embarrassment and torture, but it is the most powerful expression of humanity we have, and virtually all time stands in heed, as preceding and following this event. It is the defining moment in God's plan of redemption for mankind.
Paul showed none of this. He huffed. He puffed. He blew Stephen's house in, and many others in my estimation. Luke describes him at one point as breathing murder against the Christians. This seems like a member of a violent biker gang rather than a wayward man.
Often times, Paul got himself into trouble. He did wrong. Then he turned around and defended it. He complained to one of his churches, Why do they call me a sinner?!?!?!?! Elsewhere, to Timothy, he whines that all the churches in Asia have deserted him (gee, I wonder why. Seems like a real swell guy, this Sha'ul figure).
Let's make it even simpler for the Christians that still can't understand it yet.
Paul was a big blubbering mess. He was completely dysfunctional. He would have been referred to social services if he were alive today, if he were not already serving a life sentence in San Quentin or a supermax. He was a foul murderer, but even after all of his meddling and conniving, he'd still write to all the people he spent most of his latter years harassing and annoying via mail, like this annoying anti-Catholic fundamentalist sicko David, to complain about the awful injustice that had been wrought on him.
Oh.. they will say "annoy".. that's not true. Oh, so the churches in Asia weren't totally pestered with him and abandoned him after all? Oh that's right, they did abandon him. So clearly, he was a pest, he was bothering everyone.. In fact after 1900 years, his words are still bothering people. They've made some parts of my life a living hell and my real salvation has been to learn to ignore him and virtually every time someone decides to bring him up. Sure, I walk out of church if I hear him mentioned. I'm tired of him, I don't want to hear what he said.