It’s not likely many of us can remember exactly what we were doing a year ago today, but no doubt we were all adjusting to what would become a new normal: life during a global pandemic. If you were anything like me, you scoured the internet looking for updates from the CDC and your own local and national leaders, trying to figure out what to do next. Those early days were bewildering, weren’t they?
Handwashing, mask wearing, and social distancing became routine. Birthday parties, proms, graduations, and weddings were canceled. Zoom provided an alternative for business meetings and meet-ups, and thanks to livestreaming, most churches adapted to virtual worship.
Still, with all the benefit of digital advancements, social distancing gave way to social isolation. Personal engagement suffered. I’ve had some of the loneliest, darkest, and even most paralyzing moments of my adulthood over the past year.
This is what I’ve hated about COVID-19: it has divided people when we needed each other most. It has divided us physically, keeping loved ones from caring for their family during hospitalization and sometimes even end of life, but it has also divided us socially, emotionally, even spiritually as a deadly disease somehow turned into a political agenda.
After a raucous political season, ongoing racial tensions, and lingering questions surrounding COVID, we’re tired. But even if we’ve grown weary, as people of faith, we’re a people with hope! The good news of the gospel found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus still has the power to save us from our frail, human condition.
Regardless of what we’ve seen the past year related to pandemic, politics, and protest, God still sits on His throne. He is still for us. He is mighty to save. It’s important for us to remind each other about this because fear can creep in when we’re focused on ourselves or our circumstances.
It is against this backdrop of hope that I began reading Romans the other day. Though I’ve read through this incredible book a dozen times or more, its instruction on friendship took me by surprise. Rather than flying through those first few verses in chapter one to get to the “good stuff,” I lingered —
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Romans 1:9-12 (ESV)
The Holy Spirit began imparting beautiful instruction about friendship. Paul begins by pointing his friends to the gospel, and he lets them know he is continually praying for them. What if we did this for our friends? What if our everyday, ordinary conversations were seasoned with salt and life and had the substance of eternal value?
In the second half of verse 10 and the first part of verse 11, can’t you sense Paul’s deep longing to see his friends in Rome? After the year we’ve had where we haven’t been able to see those we love and care about without restriction, I can identify with Paul in a way I hadn’t been able to before. There’s a desperation to his desire to be with them, and as we continue reading, we see that this isn’t self-serving; he wants to strengthen them spiritually.
In this friendship Paul shares with the Roman church, there’s mutual benefit to the relationship. They’re encouraged by one another’s faith. There’s a humility and earnestness in Paul’s words that indicate his heart is truly other minded.
Can you imagine how your friendships might be revolutionized by putting these principles into practice? There’s no better friend to have and be than the kind who points others to Christ, prays continually, and is mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.Leave a Comment