Bad Luck Paul
There are some real winners in the Bible. By that, I sarcastically mean that there are a lot of people who have bad luck. Big people who come to mind quickly are Joseph and Job. However, Paul doesn't have such a great life either. I know Paul is not known for his bad luck in pop culture. Instead, Paul's remembered as the great pastor and missionary. That holds, but he lived a rough life.
First, let's understand that he traveled. He either walked or was on a boat. That is rough. He was on the road a lot, and any traveling musician can tell you how hard that life can be. Only he didn't stay in nice hotels and ride in luxury buses. His travel life is rough! He gets shipwrecked at one point, has to escape a city by being lowered down a wall, and when he goes to Damascus, Jesus literally blinds him.
Second, the Book of Acts makes it seem at every city he entered there was a problem. You can almost make out a pattern:
Paul enters a city.
People get angry.
They try to kill Paul.
They try to follow Paul and kill him in another city.
Multiple times this pattern happens. In fact, the situation that eventually gets him in so much trouble he requests to talk to Caesar is a person from a town he was killed in (don't worry, he got better) started a riot to kill him in the temple. Everywhere Paul travels, he seems to run into people that want to kill him. That has to be soul-crushing.
Finally, Governor Felix keeps him in prison not because he is guilty but because he wants a bribe. Paul spends two years in prison because of corruption. Paul is getting worked over by those in power on every level. Acts describe Paul's later years having the religious leaders seeking to kill him and the governmental rulers trying to extort him. Truly Paul knew the weight of institutions and authorities well.
As we have been reading and reflecting on the Book of Acts during our Midday Prayer time, I couldn't help but take a step back and just feel bad for Paul. There was so much pain, hardship, and awfulness in his life. I have felt things have been bad lately with the pandemic and general horribleness of 2020. Yet, when I look at Paul's life and the bad luck he had. I cannot help but feel a little more grateful for my situation. Paul is often put on a pedestal in churches. Yet, I find when we look at him through Luke's eyes, he becomes a hot mess like the rest of us and that is comforting in its weird way.
The picture used for Paul is just one of the many examples of the horribleness of Paul's life. Not only was he whitewashed, but he is usually pictured with a sword. Not because he was a great warrior, but because he was beheaded by a sword. What circle of bad luck hell do you have to be in to always be remembered by how you died with visuals!