As I read this passage first, it seemed complicated and convoluted. Paul, continuing to tell the story of his journey in faith and, as seems common with him, working hard to justify the vaunted position that he claims for himself as an apostle. If we were doing an in-depth, line by line study of this passage, I’m certain that there would be much for us to chew over about the claims Paul makes, what God has done for him, in him and through him, and the fruit that bore for the Church then, and continues to today.
But then I read it again, and my heart soared. I actually found myself rejoicing. Here is Paul, a pillar of the faith, discussing Peter, the rock on whom Jesus said he would build his Church, and other early followers of Jesus, and what are they ultimately doing? They’re trying to work out what it means to follow Jesus, to be the Church, where they find themselves. They were in at the beginning of the Church, before structures and traditions had taken hold, and they didn’t know what to do. However much we look to them as people who set the tone for the life of faith and were examples to follow, and they were, these were not faultless perfect people who never made mistakes, said the wrong thing at the wrong moment, or dishonoured God. These were broken, honest, real people, called by God to follow him, lead his people and give their lives for his good news, just as he asks us today. As we try and work out what it means to follow Jesus, be comforted that none of us has ever done it perfectly before, but we are still beloved, called, equipped and sent, just as Paul was.