The second half of the cross is clearly seen in the life of Paul.
When Paul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, after that Paul gives up all ties to the conventional Jewish life in Jerusalem. Paul sacrifices family, friends, social status, political connections, moderate wealth, and a reasonably secure and comfortable life, to the cross of Christ.
On his final visit to Jerusalem many years after his conversion, Paul is nearly pulled to pieces by the Jerusalem populace who are offended by his statement that God sent him to preach salvation to the despised and loathsome Gentiles.
Even as Paul is writing some of his New Testament letters to the churches, which have been cherished by millions of people for nearly two thousand years, Paul is writing these letters from a prison. From all outward appearances Paul is a failure, or he would not be in a prison after so many years of faithful missionary service. Conventional worldly wisdom would say that Paul should have been by that time a successful and respected religious philosopher in a world class university in Rome, Athens, or Alexandria.
But the second half of the cross does not operate according to the standards of the world. If God wants to provide quiet time for a few years for a chosen apostle like Paul to reflect and compose a portion of the New Testament, then it is not a shame to be performing this task within the cell of a prison or in a guarded, hired house in Rome.
Like Joseph in Potiphar’s house in Egypt, outward appearances are often of secondary importance in our walk with God.
The low road of humble obedience and service to God excludes all pretenders. There is no end to the number of people who will line up to become Pharisees, teachers of the law, and Sadducees, as long as this comes with the appearance and seal of success, the respect of the world, the comforts of wealth, and the excitement of having real power and influence.
Paul as Saul the Pharisee had all of these things, but he let them all go after his conversion on the road to Damascus. Paul the apostle suffered the loss of worldly reputation and respect to the cross of Christ, in response to the love and forgiveness shown by Jesus Christ to him on that road to Damascus.
The life of Paul is another example in the Bible of how the cross of Christ inspires unselfish love. Paul responds to God’s love, in his own words suffering the loss of all things worldly, and through the course of his ministry to the Jews and the Gentiles is transformed day-by-day into a person who can not only write, but also live the verses in I Corinthians 13: 1-7.
Instead of arresting and killing Christian believers, Paul allows his self-in-charge nature to be crucified along with Christ in order to bring the good news of the gospel of God’s love to others.
We have a glimpse in the salutations recorded in Romans sixteen, of a small sample of the large number of converts, friends, and acquaintances Paul made in his missionary journeys, of a man who has not only learned to genuinely love people, but who is deeply loved by them.
Paul’s conversion to Christianity and his growth as a person has to be one of the great marvels of human history.