Do you often think of the members of your church? Do you know them? Do you know their concerns, their worries? Perhaps only a bit. Do fellow-members know your worries? Not well either...
Not all worries are the same. Perhaps you are an office-bearer in your church. Perhaps last Sunday you saw some members in church and you wondered how they were doing. You may have felt inadequate, your understanding so partial, your ability to help so limited. What probably bothers your members most is the uncertainty of life. Whatever is good, will it stay that way? The health of the children, will it last? Will our job be there next year?
Paul will have sensed some of these concerns when he wrote the 12th Chapter of the Letter to the Romans. In that chapter he spells out the several facets that should be prominent in church-life. The verses 9 – 13 are devoted to relationships, relationships among the members. Verse 13 needs your attention: “Share with God's people who are in need.”
The Christians of Rome were of a certain kind. Most of them were poor, many of them refugees, but what they mostly had in common was a persistent sense of insecurity. The future was uncertain, the quality of life frail, the memory of their home-land still painfully fresh. What they missed was a deep sense of belonging. The uncertainty of life was felt everywhere. This, and more, will have been on Paul's mind when he wrote: “Share with God's people who are in need.” (The Expositor's Greek Testament, II, p. 693).
So when Paul challenges those believers to “share” he means more than lending material aid. Paul understood the crippling reality of deep inner insecurity. What the believers needed, above all, was understanding and encouragement, the kind that begins with a listening ear, an attentive heart. They needed discreet, observant neighbors, on whom they could bank, not only in times of pain and poverty, but all through life with its disquieting uncertainties.
We thank God for whatever prosperity we may have. Compared to the Christians of Rome, we are rich people. But we all realize that it may not stay that way. Times of want may lie ahead. But the deeper reasons for our fear are the threatening uncertainties.
Yes, health, but will it remain?
Yes, a job, but will it last?
Yes, family happiness, but will it endure?
Yes, a good reputation, but what if I fail?
Yes, safety, but will evil strike?
So what Paul advises here in Romans 12 is that our churches become places where God's promises are proclaimed but also personally shared among members...
Where material needs are met in a spirit of understanding, honor, and kindness …
Where members take time for each to talk heart to heart …
They are the churches where making a living and practice a profession find a deeper meaning in togetherness.