19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. 21 Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren. 22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
As we finish out Paul’s letter, we can easily look at this part and skip it. In fact, to be honest, I’m quite tempted to skip over it myself. As I start to reflect upon this passage, I wonder: how many times has someone said, “say hello to so-and-so for me,” and I completely ignore it even though I say, “I will”. Paul tends to always give a situation report about people the reader knows at the end of his letters.
In the military, we are used to our friends and colleagues being separated from us for years. Many conversations in which I “catch up” with my friends in that line of work consist of a period of time talking about others that we know. It’s as though we all keep up with certain groups of people and know who to talk to or tell about their activities. It’s the sign of a brotherhood. It’s evidence of people who care about each other even though they are not able to spend much time together. War does that.
Social media has made it a little easier to keep up with those you don’t interact with on a constant basis. You can go to someone’s profile and see pics of their kids, status updates about how wonderful or how horrible work is, or even check out their personal information to find out where they are living or who their significant other is (or if they dumped them). How often do we behave this way with fellow believers we have not seen in a while?
When people come and go through a church, it seems to be different for some reason. We take it personally when someone leaves, don’t we (calling myself out on this one)? I find it very rare that many people know or understand why someone left, but we tend to feel like they specifically left because of us. That’s like getting offended that someone decided not to reenlist in the military even though you are still in. Regardless of the reason for their departure, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. Acting differently is merely sending a mixed signal: “we love you, but we will treat you differently if you leave our little clique.” Yeah, I made it sound like high school for a reason; it’s childish behavior.
I recognize that this can be a sensitive subject for some, so I’d like to make clear I’m not trying to single anyone out that may read too much into my writings. All I am saying is that we shouldn’t focus on everyone coming to and staying with our specific church, but rather we should be more concerned with their overall well being because we love them as family. Do you get ticked off when your kids grow up and move out? Do you take it personally when a colleague at work gets promoted and has to move? I realize there may be a few exceptions, but generally, we are happy that our friends are “moving up in the world” and we bid them pleasant farewell and keep in touch over the years. Maybe we get to cross paths again sometime in the future. Maybe life gets too busy and we lose contact. Either way, it is generally a happy time because someone is taking the steps necessary to grow, whether it is spiritual or otherwise.
I often look back at my time in the military as a brotherhood. Simultaneously I shake my head at the incongruence between the bond of those in the military and those in the church. You’d think we would be closer because we are not just bonded simply by situation and difficulty, but we are also bonded by The Spirit of God.
How can you behave more like you are in a brotherhood or family than high school?