Monday, April 30, 2012

Peter, Paul, and Many

Spirit & Truth # 270
“Peter, Paul, and Many”

By Greg Smith

Telemachus and Mentor
            In Greek mythology, Mentor was the caretaker of prince Telemachus, son of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca.  While Odysseus was away fighting the Trojan war, Mentor served as the prince’s teacher, guide, friend, and protector.  Today, mentors fulfill a similar role, providing professional tutelage and serving as informal role models for their “mentees.”  For the past two weeks, we’ve looked at faith partnerships where spiritual leaders passed on their wisdom to their students, who in turn became leaders themselves.  I’ve challenged you to consider who your teachers may be, who your peers may be, and who may be the students to whom you can pass on your wisdom.

            In the Old Testament, Moses benefited from the support of seniors like Jethro and Jochebed.  He enjoyed the companionship of his wife Zipporah and his siblings Aaron and Miriam.  He passed on his faith to Caleb and Joshua.  In the New Testament we have the example of the apostle Paul.  Like Moses, Paul wasn’t a genius in his own right, but profited from the input of scores of people around him who contributed to his ministry and made him who he was.

            Paul was called to be a minister—but who ministered to Paul’s needs?  After his conversion to Christ, Ananias was the first furtive Christian to care for the former persecutor of the church.[i]  Having received Christ’s call to ministry, Paul went to Arabia for three years, then returned to receive fifteen important days of intense training from Peter and James the brother of Jesus.[ii]  Peter continued to influence Paul’s ministry.  At times they agreed with each other[iii] but at other times they disagreed.[iv]  Barnabas (whose name means “Son of Encouragement” took Paul under his wing when Paul was new to the ministry.[v]  Though Barnabas was the senior Christian in their missionary team, Barnabas allowed Paul to be the chief speaker[vi], ostensibly because Paul was in training.  Paul and Barnabas didn’t always see eye to eye,[vii] but total agreement is never necessary for one person to learn from another.  Much more could be said about other contributors like Priscilla and Aquilla, Epaphroditus, Phoebe, Chloe, Erastus, and many others, without whom Paul could never have accomplished what he did.

            Of course, no teacher is complete without his or her disciples.  Paul fed into the lives of young and rising church leaders like Titus and Timothy.  Paul’s letters of encouragement to these young men are today a support to all who are young in ministry[viii].  He encourages them to preach God’s word without reservation, whether it’s popular or not.  He reminds them of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are available to them for ministry.  He teaches them both how to rebuke and encourage God’s people.  Paul made sure that his legacy went on, so that long after his life’s journey was over his work would continue.

            If you are a Christian, then most likely you are somewhere in the continuum from student, to peer, to teacher.  Perhaps you are a bit of all three, taking on different roles with different relationships.  I hope you will take seriously your role as a disciple, as a friend, and as a godly influence to those around you.  Seriously consider who God has brought into your life, to partner with in faith and to strengthen by Christ’s love.

[i] Acts 9:10-19
[ii] Galatians 1:15-23
[iii] Acts 11:2-4; 15:7-11
[iv] Galatians 2:1-14
[v] Acts 11:19-25
[vi] Acts 13:11-12
[vii] Acts 15:36-41
[viii] Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy

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