By Anthony Casperson
There was this coffee shop, run by a few followers of Jesus, that started up around the time I began my studies in bible college. It became a favored spot among my college peers to hang out. A few times, professors even held class in the coffee shop’s conference room. (Though the class had to be one with very few students in order to fit.)
The name of this establishment was Dioko. For those who had taken their Greek class, this name was not just some random group of letters. It’s a verb in that language. Why the owners of the shop took on the name was because it can be translated as “I pursue.” They had wanted to proclaim their pursuit of God in their business.
However, the far more common use of the verb in the Greek is the definition “I persecute.” This type of pursuit is a dogged one that continues until it finally reaches its goal. Nothing will get in the way of catching the target. (Needless to say, the Greek students, who were the few that understood the name, were the ones to make fun of the “persecuted coffee.”)
I was reminded of this story earlier in the week as I was writing a chapter in the book I want to finish this summer. I sought to speak about pursuing God and the path down which he calls us. And in my research I came upon this pursue/persecute word. Most of the places in the bible where this verb should be translated in a pursuit type of manner come from the hand of the Apostle Paul.
I wondered why Paul would so liberally use this verb in a pursuing manner when it’s the less common definition. He speaks of pursuing peace, pursuing righteousness, pursuing faith, and pursuing love. He uses this positive direction of pursuit about as much as he talks about the persecution side of the word.
That’s about the time it hit me. Before Paul came to be a follower of Jesus (back when he was known as Saul), the hot-blooded Pharisee doggedly chased down the followers of Jesus to bring them to judgement. Nothing would stand in the way of his zeal for what he thought to be justice. No distance too far to travel. No method too far to take. Dragging men, women, and children to their deaths, he’d stand approvingly as his fellow Israelites pelted these followers of Jesus with rocks. Bones would break. Blood would flow. And death would finally come for them.
If there was anyone who understood the extent of pursuit in this persecution word, it was Paul. The self-proclaimed chief of sinners who lamented his actions of the time before he came to follow this same Jesus. His change of understanding regarding the God of the bible didn’t change his zeal. It didn’t change his dogged pursuing nature.
God made Paul’s pursuing nature a holy thing. Paul had come to chase after the ways of God, after peace, after righteousness, after faith, after love like he once pursued his victims. There was no distance too far to travel. The Apostle went around the Roman Empire (the known world) proclaiming the truth of God. There was no method too far to take. Paul says that he became all things for all people, so that by all means he might save some.
The Apostle calls us to pursue after godliness in the determined, obstinate, persistent, tenacious, dogged manner of a persecutor. We are to follow after Jesus our Savior with such resolve that our goal of godliness and holiness won’t escape our grasp.
Do we pursue like that?