Paul’s Paradox

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

From the beginning, I’ve called this blog Just1Voice because my words (and actions) speak of who I am, what I believe, and what I hope for.  I, like the rest of us, cannot speak for anyone else.  What you and I are about may resonate with some, which may facilitate the fellowship of community, and may not resonate at all with others.  Either way, at the end of the proverbial day, each of us stands alone with ourselves.

If you’ve read my postings with any consistency, it should be no secret that I desire to live for God and to glorify Him in all that I do.  I’ve come to believe, after being in relationship with Him for 43 years, that He is my greatest joy, my deepest blessing, and my greatest challenge.  There was a time when I considered spending time alone with God to be an interruption in my daily schedule.  Now, I consider the demands of my schedule to be an interruption in the time I want to spend with God.  Closeness often breeds the desire for more closeness.

A consequence of that intimacy is that more and more I feel alienated from this world and this feeling has become increasingly visceral.  I so easily relate to the “pilgrim” similes and metaphors used in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and in the New that described Abraham.  He sojourned and settled in places, but by faith, knew his home to be elsewhere.  That is what it is to be an alien.  

I think this is what Paul alluded to when he said “…to live is Christ and to die is gain.” His entire post-conversion life was dedicated to serving the same Jesus who confronted him in a powerful vision while he was on the road to Damascus with the intent of arresting and persecuting Christians.  The quoted passage from Philippians and the surrounding verses are his reflection on the value of his remaining in this life because of the impact he could have on growing and strengthening the Church.  This is, after all, why he was called/commissioned to be an apostle of Christ to the Gentiles (“to live is Christ,” meaning that his purpose in remaining is to reveal the true nature and person of Christ to as many as he could).  Underneath, however, was this recognition that Earth was not his true home.  His true home was in the full presence of His Lord (“to die is gain”).  Becoming a Christian, in faith and not just name, gave him a growing hunger to be fully at home where nothing would be alien.

Sometimes our purpose conflicts with our preference.  It seemingly did for Paul and I understand.  I understand.  But as Jesus once said, “I have come from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).  If the Son of God took this stance, how much of the same should His servants do?  Not less than, but the same as, although I do confess that I do look forward to the day when I will see and be home.

It’s a paradox that must be for now, one that I and so many others must live and function within…until He says, “It’s time.”


© Byron L. Hannon, 2022.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise stated. 

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