Beyond our boundaries

… no one came to my support, but all deserted me. Paul is writing from jail. We hear these words of desertion as simply not being visited, or no one being a witness for Paul’s defense. That may all be true, but it is not all. It likely means Paul has no one to provide for his daily needs, like food, which in the day was the obligation of family and friends. So not only is Paul alone, his daily bread is lacking.  Times are hard.

Times are hard enough we’d expect Paul to lash out at those who deserted him. (And he does somewhat, thought the lectionary skips those verses.) What Paul does, as he always does, is to turn to the Lord, who stood by him and gave him strength. That is a source of faith, strength and encouragement for anyone in difficult circumstances. But what grabs my attention is so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  Paul is not given strength to sustain him, he is given strength to continue proclaiming the Gospel, specifically to those outside the customarily acceptable community, those of Jewish heritage.

A couple of observations: though I am not familiar with rules regarding letters from those in Roman prisons, I suspect it was not a right of a prisoner,  we assume, so the fact that we have the letter might reveal that Paul wasn’t totally deserted, someone either took the letter or heard Paul speak his thoughts (if the letter is by a proto-Paul).  More important; however, is Paul’s singular focus on following God’s will specifically proclaiming the Gospel especially to the Gentiles.

The gleaning I am taking away is to stay focused on proclaiming the Gospel, no matter the circumstances. God will give us unfailing strength to carry on.  Secondly, God’s plan  progresses, even when the establishment resist. Paul’s push to reach out to Gentiles comes from his understanding God, thought Jesus, has kept the law to perfection, so now is the time to carry the light of God to all people, languages, tribes, and nations.  In short, talk about Jesus to those beyond your carefully constructed boundaries. It is not easy, you may well find yourself all alone, except of course for the presence and strength of God.