Why Would Paul Cry?

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Why Would Paul Cry?

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There is a saying that some things “could make a grown man cry.” That comment is sometimes made in jest because grown men seldom cry. It is not considered a manly thing to do. Men are supposed to be strong and reliable. They are the “knights in shining armor” who rescue the damsels in distress. Women can also show great courage and strength, but there is usually a difference in the way in which men and women approach trials and troubles in life. Men are, generally speaking, less likely to cry. Paul endured much physical hardship Paul was a very strong man. He survived the arenas of the Roman Empire (1 Corinthians 15:32). He was beaten more times than he could count (although he sometimes did count—2 Corinthians 11:23-24) and took those beatings “like a man.” It does not seem that those beatings brought Paul to tears. In addition, Paul did not hesitate to board a ship and head out to face the most severe storms at sea (2 Corinthians 11:25). He also faced raging crowds who were shouting for his death and picking up stones that they then used to try to put him to death. Stoning in those days was more than throwing a rock in the recipient’s general direction. When they left him, he was considered dead. A person is hard-pressed to find a more heroic, strong-minded, death-defying hero than Paul; and yet the Bible tells us that Paul was reduced to tears on more than one occasion. Here is a “man’s man” who cried and yet who lost none of his manliness. Who was responsible for his tears and what was it that made Paul cry? Paul’s emotional involvement in the Church Acts 20:17-31 describes the work Paul was doing in Ephesus and other cities. He had come to Asia and served with “many tears” (verse 19). Those tears were not for him—they were for the people he was serving. He was so deeply concerned about their well-being that he was intensely emotionally involved. In verse 31 he speaks of the consistent warning he had given the Ephesian congregation. That warning described dangers the members of the Church would face. He wrote about “savage wolves” that would come in and not spare the flock or the Church (verse 29). Paul would have liked to be there with the Ephesians to fight off these attacks. The savage wolves were not animals as he had fought in the arena—they were humans pushed on by Satan to destroy the Church. In Revelation 12:3 and 13, Satan is depicted as a “great, fiery red dragon” that persecutes the woman (the Church). Paul was right to be worried about the danger to the members of the Church. Paul wrote about the functions within the Church, which is the body of Christ. He continued to strongly remind the brethren to be gentle and longsuffering and to strive for peace (Ephesians 4:2-3). He seems to indicate that there were great problems. When one writes to a group or a church and gives a message that includes “putting away lying” (verse 25), it seems clear that some must have been lying. Paul found a great deal to remind and warn the Christians in Ephesus about. He detailed the kind of sins that would keep them out of the Kingdom of God. John would be inspired to write that liars would not inherit the Kingdom (Revelation 21:8), and Paul would have understood and known this. His concern was for the well-being of the members. He had his own list of barriers to the Kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. He knew the background of those he served and worried about them slipping back to the darkness from where they came. Those responsible for Paul’s tears, then, were the converted members of the congregations he served. As time passed, he began to feel like a father to them, and a genuine love and concern grew towards these brethren. Paul writes about his heartfelt bond as he addresses the members of the church in Galatia as “my little children” (Galatians 4:19). He went on to say he would like to be with them and change the tone of his letter, which revealed his worries about them. Paul is not the only apostle who felt so strongly about the people he served. In 1 John 2 we find several references to Church members whom John addressed as his “children.” Tears are not unmanly Sometimes when a man is at a point of frustration or a point where he does not know what the next step should be he becomes very sad. When the potential is recognized and the good things documented, and yet people discard them like something of little or no value, Paul and others like him are reduced to tears. Children who reject every good gift that is offered also reduce parents—who see the potential of their children and want only good for them—to tears. Paul had learned the hard way that God’s way is the only way and God’s promises have no equal or parallel. He suffered physical loss and abuse in order to preach the word of truth and hope to others. He spent his years instilling the hope for the Kingdom of God and eternal life in all people, Jew and gentile alike. Sometimes Paul must have felt that his work was for nothing. Paul explained to the Corinthians that he wrote with many tears that they would know the genuine love he had for them (2 Corinthians 2:1-4). His intention was not to make them grieve. He was looking for spiritual growth in them, and thus was suffering the deepest inner grief and anguish over his inability to come to them and help solve the ongoing problems that they did not seem to be addressing. He would rather have rejoiced in the spiritual growth that should have been present, but he found things that caused only sorrow. There are other reasons why Paul may have been reduced to tears. Sometimes a person has an emotional side to him or her that is easily touched. Since God is Almighty and does not allow evil to go unpunished, His servants know that those who oppose God will have a terrible price to pay. Paul loved the Philippian church, but even in this “favorite” church of his he found things to be deeply concerned about. Philippians 3:18-19 shows that even in Philippi there were brethren who were enemies of the Church. He begs them to stand fast in the Lord (Philippians 4:1-3). Paul had seen many things in his life. He was fiery and had a zeal that burned strongly within him. That zeal had driven Paul to persecute the Church when he was Saul the Pharisee. His views changed, but his zeal was always present. It allowed him to be in labors more abundant than all of those who were causing trouble (2 Corinthians 11:23). Those who made Paul cry were those whom he loved and for whom he had given up everything. He feared that they might be “disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He knew that, once the blood of Jesus had been shed for a person, that person had to go forward. His eternal life would be at stake if he or she failed (Hebrews 6:4-6). Paul was not able to make decisions for them, and he was not always able to be there. He was forced to stand by and watch how they responded. We read the story of Jesus who also wept as He approached Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). He wept because He knew that they had rejected Him and He could foresee the warfare and devastation that was to come to the city with all the accompanying pain and suffering that was not necessary. Those are the reasons the strongest men weep. It is not for themselves, and it is not caused by suffering or weakness. It is for others that these men weep. Paul wept for the sake of those he loved and who loved him. So must we all. Recommended reading To learn more about the early Church and the hardships it faced, please request our free booklet The Church Jesus Built.