There are a couple of verses in this section, paired with a verse from Chapter 1 that really stand out to me right now, under our present circumstances. Many, perhaps most of you reading this are presently cut off from some of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Either you are not attending services in person for obvious reasons, or maybe you are able to attend services yourself but are missing some members who are choosing to stay home right now. It’s a tough time for many of us in that regard, myself included.
We are still able to meet in person at our church (though we were not allowed to for a couple of months this past Spring), but several members have not met in person with us for some time due to health concerns. When we are cut off from each other, it hurts.
I recently read about a study led by pyschologist Alfred Tomatis regarding a group of clinically depressed monks. After much examination, he concluded that the group’s depression resulted from the abandonment of the twice daily gathering to sing Gregorian chants. They lost the sense of community that came as a result of them coming together to harmonize in song. Coming together to sing was a formal recognition of their connection and a shared moment of joy. Many of us have been missing that.
Paul shares how important fellowship with other believers was for him, in his letter to the Roman church:
Chapter 1:11-12 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Similarly in Chapter 15, verse 32, Paul speaks of wanting to see his friends in order to be refreshed.
We believers are important to one another. When it seems there are fewer and fewer examples of decency and morality in the world around us, we need each other to be reminded that we are still on the right track, despite what is happening all around us. The most encouraging times for me are when I am able to spend the week with fellow believers at places like Midwest Family Camp and FUEL. I always feel like I get a little bit of a taste of the Kingdom during those weeks, by being able to spend so much time surrounded by so many fellow believers. Returning to the “real world” at the end of those weeks is often quite jarring and unwelcome for me.
Paul finishes his letter in chapter 16 by asking to have his greetings sent to several individual people in the church there. Barring being able to see these people in person, he still was able to send them encouragement from afar.
Are there fellow believers you know that you have not seen for a while because of this pandemic? What about other believers, or even non-believers that you know who could use some encouragement right now? And who couldn’t really? Today, it is so much easier to reach out to someone to give encouragement than ever before. So there’s no excuse other than the excuses we create. And though it is not as easy, Paul’s old fashioned method of reaching out to those far away, by letter, is still worthwhile today, and probably the most meaningful to boot.
I really think there has never been a better time to try to reach out and encourage others, especially those that we have been cut off from. Try to take the time, today, to reach out to at least one person. You may be surprised about how much impact that can make in someone’s life.
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – Romans 14-16.
Join us tomorrow as we read Acts 20:4-23:35.