Summary: We do not have to like everything about Paul, for he didn't like everything about himself, but we do have to recognize that differences are not defects. They are the key to the churches having the diversity necessary to reach a very diverse world.
Sometimes a man can be so different that nobody can agree with him all the time. Such was the case
with Roger Williams, who was the founder of the first Baptist Church in America. He came to
America for religious freedom, and he expected to have more of it than anybody was willing to give
him. The Puritans regulated people's lives. They told them when they could be on the street and
when not; when they could kiss their wives and when not. They forced everybody to go to church
and pay a tax to keep the church going, and this even included the Jews.
Williams had a different idea of what it meant to be free, and he began to resist the church-state
combination that regulated all of life. Keep in mind that he was the pastor of the most powerful
church in Boston. His cry for liberty was too radical, and so they asked him to leave. He went to
Salem where they also found him too defiant for their blood, and so he moved on to Plymouth where
he pastured the Pilgrims. Here he found people who also loved liberty, but they could not go along
with his radical ideas about treating the Indians fairly, even to the point of paying them for their land.
He resigned his pulpit there and became a preacher without a pulpit. Mary, his wife, kept going to
the church each Sunday, and Roger did not stop her, for he believed in religious liberty in the home
as well. He stayed home and preached to anyone who would come. The problem was that too many
came, and Williams was becoming a threat to the whole Puritan system of church and state.
He had to be dealt with, and so the leaders of the church and state summoned him to court. The
governor sat at the head, and his 25 deputies. All of the preachers were there to see that this plague
was ended once and for all. Some of the preachers judging Williams were among the greatest in
American history. There was John Cotton and Thomas Hooker, for example, whose writings are
available in any theological library. It was Christians against a Christian. When they read the list of
charges against him Williams pleaded guilty to all of them. When he was asked to recant he said,
like Martin Luther, "Here I stand." He would not budge. He refused to stop his promotion of
religious liberty, and so the court ordered him to be banished from the colony.
Roger Williams was too different to be tolerated, even by fellow Christians. None of these
Christian leaders doubted that Williams was a Christian, but they just could not endure his demand
for religious liberty. He was too different to fit into their idea of the ideal relationship of church and
state. The end result was that Williams escaped and founded his own colony in Rhode Island. He
founded his own church in Providence, which was the capital, and he began the experiment that
changed the history of America. In his colony there was complete separation of the church and state,
and total religious liberty. His ideal became a part of the Constitution of our country. His way of
thinking was so different, but it eventually became the American way of thinking. The point is,
history reveals that history is changed most often by people who are different. They are people who
do not conform. They are odd balls and mavericks, and people who seem to be always swimming
upstream and going against the grain.
Someone said that there are only two kinds of people in the world, those who think there are only
two kinds of people in the world, and those who know better. It is easy to say everyone is either a
Christian or a non-Christian, but this really does not cover the complexity of who people are. There
are many differences among Christians, and many of the great conflicts of history have been because
Christians are so radically different. The Jews could have said the same thing saying there are only
Jews and non-Jews. But here they are in great conflict with a Jew named Paul, who is turning their
world upside down. Paul was a Jew, but he was different from the majority of Jews. Paul was a
Christian, but he was also different from the majority of Christians. He was no commonplace
sparrow, but he was a rare bird. He was different in his conversion and in most every other way.
Paul was different in his calling. He was uniquely called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.
None of the others had this unique call. Peter was used to bring Gentiles like Cornelius into the
kingdom, but Paul was different from Peter. Paul made an easier transition to universal Christianity