He was open to what we have called strange friendships. He was inclusive. God had sent him to the pagans he had previously despised, but he had gotten to know them now for several years and found that many of them were really quite nice people. God loved them and had a wonderful plan for their lives.
Paul was also highly motivated. He was prepared to travel. This meant covering geographical distances. But it meant traveling across social distances as well. He was prepared to hang out in unexpected places, and he couldn’t do this—or couldn’t do it as easily and constantly—before the breakthrough in Antioch, when he was observing Jewish practices vigilantly. Jews cannot eat and drink with people all the time, and they have scheduling clashes, while various pagan social spaces are downright problematic. Jews don’t want to be too exposed to pagan idols, or to corpses, thereby incurring corpse impurity, or to eat food with blood in it. Paul’s new flexibility with respect to food, drink, and timetabling meant he could access new social spaces without these impediments. Unexpected places offered strange new friendships, and these friendships could be with anyone, whether someone of high status like Sergius Paulus, or of low status, like Lydia. No one was too important or too unimportant to talk to and to befriend.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 49