22For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you;
23but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you
24whenever I go to Spain–for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while–
25but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints.
26For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.
27Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.
28Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain.
29I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
This passage is inspiring. It is similar to the sermon I heard on Sunday, about pushing onward, setting goals laid on our hearts by God, and persisting against the odds against us for “If our God is for us, who can stand against us?”
Paul continues explaining that his main mission was to spread the gospel and it has been up until the point of him writing this letter that he has accomplished that mission. He has always had the desire to visit his brothers in Rome, but never made it because of other circumstances and important missions that had to be accomplished.
I find it interesting that paul had a desire to visit Rome (and we learn that he never made it to Rome) and at the same time he had other things he had to accomplish. Let’s try to shift that template to our own lives. As we think about God’s purpose for us, we tend to (I tend to, anyway) think it is just one thing at a time. That God will put one desire on our heart and we will carry it out and then receive another mission. It doesn’t quite work that way. He sets us in a direction and puts many things in front of us that he wants us to do. Multifunction tools are more useful than just a single function tool, no?
Paul again discusses faith and deeds. He mentions the Christians in two cities that have donated to the poor in Jerusalem. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. I feel this is important because as we learn about God’s spiritual mission for us, it is easy to just sit back and pray about everything. Paul exemplifies here that we must act as well. (again, not because we have to, but because we get to) and that as these people we able to, they did. It’s easy as a Christian to use prayer as an excuse for inaction. We pray for the homeless man on the corner instead of stopping and giving him a buck. We pray for people struggling in life and go on our merry ways instead of actually lending a helping hand as we can.
Paul’s description of what he anticipates as he visits with his brothers is something I need to improve. Especially being people he has never met before in his life, Paul is excited to meet them. How often do you get excited about meeting new believers? Ever go to a new church excited? Ever go to a friends party not knowing anyone but the host? I’ll be honest and say I’m quite apprehensive about who I meet. It’s an element of trust I need to work on. Ironically, if I find out that someone was in the Marines, or even in the military, I instantly feel a new level of closeness with them. Why is it not like this with fellow Christians? Sometimes we judge other Christians the same way the world judges us all, with a scrupulous eye waiting to see a failure so we can call them on it.
Why not instead embrace each other for the creatures God made us to be? Why not look forward to enriching each other in brotherhood? When was the last time you took the step to befriend a fellow brother or sister?