St Paul and Je­sus

The Church of England - - LETTERS -

Sir, Once again, two of your read­ers ap­pear to have se­lected key words frommy let­ter (14 Au­gust), thrown them up in the air and re­assem­bled them into a let­ter they sus­pect I might have writ­ten – but didn’t!

I do not com­pare or con­trast Je­sus with St Paul, any more than I would with Saints Peter, An­drew, James, John or any of the apos­tles. But nei­ther can I con­flate Je­sus and Paul as Dr Wordsworth ap­pears to do, re­gard­ing his words as the very voice of Je­sus. It is Je­sus alone to whom I can say, with St Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

Search as I may, I can­not find where Je­sus says to St Paul, “He who hears you, hears me...” I do find them in St Luke’s gospel, where they are ad­dressed to the 70 whom Je­sus is send­ing out on their mis­sion – quite a num­ber to en­trust with the gospel mes­sage.

From an early age, we are taught that prayer is not a mat­ter of bending God’s ear with our per­sonal man­i­festo for the im­prove­ment of the world, with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to our own lives, but should be more a mat­ter of lis­ten­ing to what­ever God may be say­ing to us ei­ther di­rectly, as a still small voice in our own hearts, or via one of his mes­sen­gers – to­day’s prophets.

To de­clare at the out­set that we have no in­ten­tion of lis­ten­ing to any­thing but our own voice in our own head, read­ing from our own trans­la­tion of our pre­ferred ver­sion of Scrip­ture, is surely to har­den our hearts against try­ing to keep Je­sus’ new com­mand­ment, that we “love one another as he has loved us.” – which, of course, St Paul ex­pands by show­ing how love is greater than faith or hope.

Read­ing and study­ing Scrip­ture is vi­tally im­por­tant for all Chris­tians, but we must try to dis­cern the spirit which lies be­hind the let­ter in or­der to un­der­stand the mes­sage and that is not al­ways easy at this dis­tance of time and via so many dif­fer­ent lan­guages. We have not all got the time or the skill to pur­sue this quest for our­selves, but let us not be ver­bally abu­sive about those who try to do so.

Mary P Roe,

Bices­ter

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