"For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." - Romans 1: 11,12
Our thoughts about Lent are too often shaped by a very solitary notion of what it means to follow Christ.
But a much-neglected dimension of the Christian life is how communal it is. In the writings of Paul especially, to "be in Christ" nearly always means to be "in the church," the living community which is his body.
We get a hint of that in this first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. He was planning to visit this congregation for the first time, and in introducing himself he says he wants to share with them a spiritual gift. Then he corrects himself and hopes they "may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith."
The word "encouragement" literally means to "give heart." The Christian life is a team sport. Like any good team the members of a congregation support each other as they work together for a common purpose.
As I get older I have become more aware of special people who encouraged me at various times in my life, who "gave me heart" when I needed it. And I try now to be encouraging to others in their faith journeys as I know many are to me.
Help us, O God, to help others in their faith by the ministry of encouragement.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.