About a year ago, I was having a conversation with a friend and he brought up the Apostle Paul’s occupation. There has been much debate in religious circles regarding Paul’s career choice. He wasn’t a full-time minister in the sense that most of us understand. He had a career that he used to support himself and his ministry. (Acts 18:3) In short, my friend proposed the idea that Paul was a mercenary. I had never heard this perspective before, but it made some sense. He was trained in several languages, a Roman citizen, stood by in approval when the synagogue of Freedmen executed Stephen for boldly proclaiming the Gospel, and he developed a worldwide reputation for terrorizing the believers after the Holy Spirit explosion that took place at Pentecost. (Acts 6-8)
Even if Paul didn’t throw a stone at Stephen, he approved of his martyrdom. (Acts 8:1) Without knowing much more regarding how Paul carried out his persecution of the Church, it can reasonably be inferred that he didn’t get his hands dirty, but was in a habit of supervising. In fact, when he encountered Jesus on the Road to Damascus, Paul was traveling with several people, and one or more of them could have been designated as the “hitmen” or “executioners” of the group. (Acts 9) After his conversion, he became equally zealous for proclaiming the Gospel. Paul braved heavy seas, persecution, betrayal, false teachers, and paid his own way as he traveled throughout the known world declaring the mercies of God. In fact, in Acts 28, a viper attaches itself to Paul’s hand while he moved wood around for a fire on Malta. The indigenous people declared, “No doubt this man is a murderer.” (Acts 28:4)
The truly funny thing regarding all this, when I was younger, I assumed that Paul lived the life of a monk while he studied under Gamaliel, but it is possible that he went around supervising people’s death. It’s strange. Either way, the life of a monk is not without its own perils. The monks of the middle ages were known for their monastic lifestyle, which included brewing beer and wine. Even though they would not think of themselves as assassins, alcohol can kill. All it would take is one bad batch of brew or for someone to take it overboard, and suddenly a monk is unknowingly an accomplice to murder. Would their consciences be defiled? Probably not. It would have been easy to continue with the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Biblical study, and fellowship, all while whipping up a new batch of “liquid bread” or “communion wine.”
Another important fact to consider in this interesting debacle: Paul was originally named Saul. So, it was Saul that studied under Gamaliel and went around persecuting the early church as a wanton murderer, but it was Paul that braved the harshest of all circumstances to see the same group of believers edified. He had to change his name to escape his past, and the sound of “Saul” may have sent great remorse coursing through his very being. Did he change his name to change his reputation? Yes, so his reputation as a murderer wouldn’t hinder his work as a laborer of the Gospel. Is it possible that his name change brought him some peace regarding his past? I think so.
Something most people don’t know: I was once Kevin Charles Wagenseller. I was raised in a Christian home by parents that loved the Lord, and ensured that I was taught the Bible by faithful men and women. However, I learned how to hunt, and as I got older, I became criminal. Fortunately, I was able to leave my criminal life by joining the military, but I excelled in the ways of war. As a Gunner’s Mate 3rd class for the United States Navy, I developed the skills needed to train up a small army in the disciplines of weaponry, tactics, and lethal force. In other words, I was a government-ordained mercenary. Upon discharge, I legally changed my name to KC. I hated Kevin. I hated everything about him. Even as I share more about my military experiences, my family has grown to see Kevin for the monster that he really was. Luckily, a legal change of name allowed me to kill and bury him.
Now, I am a monk. I enjoy brewing and drinking beer. I enjoy cannabis, and I am zealous for lost people. These things seem strange to some, but each of us accepts life and faith commensurate with the measure that God allows — sometimes by choice, other times by necessity. Fortunately, we serve a God that saves. Even though Kevin was trained in the streets and the ways of war, Bible knowledge and church songs still come bubbling from the deepest places of my soul, reminding me that God was always by my side, and that He is not leaving anytime soon. I am not claiming to be an apostle, but I echo the cry of Isaiah 2:4, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” I believe in the 2nd Amendment rights, but I highly doubt I will ever pick up a sword again, other than an occasional run to the range. Sure, substances have their own teeth, but I am really learning how to depend on God and all that he has provided, even as the Sun rises each morning and gives light and life to all created things, I shall sing and swear allegiance to Jesus alone. His is King. Paul knew this. I know this, and I hope if you are reading this blog and you do not know Jesus as Savior or as King, that you would find Him as one or both.
#Wagen, over and out.