Are Jesus and Paul Anomalies?

No one taught me this specifically, but growing up in the church there seemed to be the idea that the way Jesus and Paul lived was an anomaly. We weren’t necessarily supposed to follow the example of how they specifically lived. They didn’t really have a home. They moved from city to city preaching the Gospel. They were not married. They lived life with a singular focus. They suffered. And they ultimately died for the sake of the Gospel. They lived differently than the so-called “normal” Christian.

And while no Sunday school teacher or preacher specifically said they were not necessarily the example of what our everyday lives should look like–it just seemed that is what everyone was saying with their own lives. Most of the Christians around me were married and remained in a central place. They didn’t travel around town to town preaching the Gospel. They didn’t really suffer. And ultimately they didn’t give their lives for the Gospel.

So why are the two central figures of the New Testament so different from our modern day lives? We seem comfortable being quick to say, “Well, Jesus and Paul were called to live differently.” And they certainly had very specific callings. Jesus, the Son of God, came to lay down his life for the world. Paul was given the task of helping establish the early church. They did have specific callings that were unique and specific for that time and season.

But I can’t help but wonder if we have given them the anomaly title too quickly. I mean, Jesus tells us to follow him. Paul tells his audience of Christians to imitate him as he imitates Christ. They don’t seem to shy away from asking us to look at their lives as an example.

So maybe we are just supposed to imitate the faith of Paul and not necessarily his entire life. Maybe Jesus calls us to be in relationship with him but not to model the way he physically lived and worked. But that seems like too easy of an out. It seems to release us from the sacrificial life they lived. It seems like it gives us freedom to view them as different. We treat them almost as mythical figures detached from the ordinary human experience. And if we can keep them separate, then it gives us permission to keep our comfortable life while picking and choosing from their lives what we want.

One of the challenges of reading the Bible that is filled with miraculous and supernatural moments is that we separate how God worked back then from how God works now. Moses does not seem like an ordinary man. Samson doesn’t seem like an ordinary man. David, Daniel, Noah, Abraham and Joseph–all the heroes of the faith seem like they lived on a completely different planet. And so when we look at their lives, we don’t expect God to ever call us to build an ark or slay a giant. And so when we study men like Abraham, we study their character and faith without ever assuming that God is going to call us to leave our home to go to a land that God will show us.

When we get to the life of Jesus and Paul we again dismiss the way they lived and we simply study their character. Their lives become “principles” we can live by. And we find ourselves safely studying Paul’s faith without the possibility that one day God might call me to leave my own home and actually preach the Gospel town to town.

But what if they were giving us an example? What if we were to lay down our lives the way they laid down their lives? What if we are to give everything we have for the sake of the Gospel like they did? What if we truly are to live out the words of Paul, who said, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me”? And what if following their example does result in a home life that is less rooted? What if it does result in us spending less time preparing and saving for the future and spending more time living sacrificially in the present? What if it does result in a life that is less impacted by culture and more impacted by the Gospel? What if we saw this world not as our home or as a place to “build a life” but rather as a place to pour out our life?

Could it be that Jesus was serious when he said we are to take up our cross and follow him? Could it be that the life we are to intimate in Paul is a life that has taken up his cross and followed Christ?

Could it be that their lives were not anomalies but actually the examples we are to follow?

And could it be that our lives have become abnormal? Could it be that we are the anomaly? Could it be that we need to take a closer look at the life of Jesus and the example of Paul in following Jesus and ask the question, “How should my life look like their lives?”

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