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June 1, 2013

Text:  “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 1:11-12

Most people think of themselves as self-reliant, capable, independent, and victorious over whatever threatens them. They swagger through life like superman, and brag like Barney Fife being given two bullets instead of just one.  But one day a big black cloud hovers over their lives. It may be sickness, losing a special someone, financial reversal, or loss of a job they love.  Suddenly they realize that they are not invincible. They grope about looking for some kind of support.

This is where the concept of mutuality is important. What is mutuality? The dictionary informs us that it means shared in common. Mutuality is also about having the same feelings one for the other. It also calls to  mind sharing common goals. Among Christians it is a near synonym for fellowship. This seems to be a practice of the first century church. Having things in common, sharing love for one another, and working in the kingdom of Christ and God.  “That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”  Romans 1:12  The early saints benefited greatly by sharing their lives  and efforts to doing good to men and enjoying the blessings of God.

The audiences of Jesus may have been shocked to hear him say to them, “…your father in heaven…” Mathew 5:16  Nevertheless the concept was quickly appropriated. God was their father, Jesus their elder brother, and members of the body were brothers and sisters.

The early Christians thought of themselves as members of a family. Now this is a very tender idea. It is foundational, stemming from the blood bonds of  early society. Relatives were the first and best givers of support, a sense of who one was, and common culture.  In Christ’s body you have brothers and sisters who are closer than your own siblings. Attachments in every community where you have ever lived. Those to whom your are bonded in this life and the life to come. They pray for you.  They come to your aid in adversity, bring comfort for your sorrow. Bind up your wounds. Speak words that fortify and inspire.

Every Christian needs this kind of love and support. He needs the family of God to be caring to him. He needs sympathy in abundance. He needs healing for his wounds. He needs words that guide and inspire. He needs to observe firsthand saints model these things in their behavior

Every Christian is capable of performing such supportive actions. He can be mentored to think and act supportively.  He can begin small and grow into maturity as a comforter. He can learn to approach a hurting person and gain his confidence. He can be a beacon of light and an example of doing good.

A magnificent example of mutuality is a disciple named Joseph.  The apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement”. Acts 4:36-37  He sold one of his properties and gave the entire sale price to the apostles to distribute to the needy. There must have been many other things done by Barnabas also to merit this name. Wouldn’t you like to be known as an “encourager”? But let us not overlook a frequently unappreciated fact: there are many others who did as Barnabas did. Acts 4:34

The early church had many persons who were part of the practice of “mutuality”.  Among them, the “cheerful givers” of II Corinthians 9:7; Onesimus , the runaway slave who became serviceable to Paul Philemon 11; Mary the hard worker of Romans 16:6; and many others.

There is room for you to be assisted by other saints. You too could be a Barnabas, encouraging the disheartened. Find a ministry. Be part of the church’s mutuality.

  1. dwhitsett permalink

    Thank you for addressing one of the most important concepts of the Way.

  2. Larry permalink

    Yes! Great examples. Let me encourage you to keep up this good work. I get so much out of your work. Thank you.–Larry

  3. Find your talents and use them. Many can be encouragers, many can call the sick and heart sick, and offer a shoulder to cry on.

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