Revering Paul and having reservations about him are not mutually exclusive. Entire denominations, pastors, and theologians discard Paul’s teachings when they don’t conform to their world view and yet venerate him when they do. Why should I be held to stricter standards?
For example, Paul’s teachings on the role of women in marriage and in church, his views on slavery, homosexuality,and his evident disdain for the institution of marriage have been explained away, rationalized, or agreed to, based not on their merits, but on the world view of those doing the explaining, rationalizing, or agreeing.
What if Paul meant exactly what he said? What If he didn’t believe slavery was evil, but slave owners and slaves just needed to do it right? What if he meant it when he said women should not speak in church, should obey their husbands? What If he really believed it when he said people should not marry, but since that wasn’t gonna happen, here’s how to do marriage right? Shouldn’t we practice discerment when reading Paul, especially when he goes all theological on us? Much of his theology, after all, is found nowhere in the teachings of Jesus.
Naturally, what followed was pick and choose Paulism. Which leads me to an important point. We, I believe, totally get it wrong when venerating Paul.
What truly merits veneration, If not outright awe, is his missionary work. Even more important, it was Paul who fought the church in Jerusalem about Gentiles being allowed into the faith without condition. Without him, millions would have perished without knowing Jesus, including me. Paul changed everything and millions live in Christ. That’s more than worthy of veneration.
So yes, I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. I am moved to shame when I read that passage where Paul describes all he endured to carry the message of Christ Risen and coming again to a lost world. Beatings, floggings, shipwrecks, cold, hungry, imprisoned, and eventually martyered. Could I suffer like that for my savior?