For myself I feel certain that you, my brothers, have real Christian character and experience, and that you are capable of keeping each other on the right road (Romans 15:14)
The ancient city of Rome was built on seven hills. The largest of those hills was called the Palatine, and you can still visit the Palatine, down by the Roman Forum. Sometimes I try to picture these early Christians gathering somewhere around the foot of the Palatine hill, studying Paul’s letter. Believe or not, there are similarities between the church at Rome and many of our modern churches. Do you remember that Paul began this letter saying that the faith of these people was known around the world; and even in a much bigger world than Paul knew?
In this chapter, Paul gives us a little more insight into this church. In Verse 14, we see that they possessed three things.
First, he says, “I feel certain that you, my brothers, have real Christian character and experience.” That is, their motives were right. They had come to the place where they were motivated by a sense of goodness. Certainly, this church at Rome was a responsive church, a compassionate church. It reached out to people who were in need. It responded to those who had hurts and burdens and concerns. I think this is one of the qualities I have appreciated all the fellowships I have been involved with. I remembering walking out of a church and someone who visited the church for the first time, noticed all the young children running around, and said, “Ah, I love seeing that. It is a sign of a church that is alive!” Isn’t that great?
Another thing I personally look for in a church, or in a Pastor, when I meet them, is how they respond to needs. Whenever someone approaches them and shares a particular need, are they judgmental and condemning? Or, is there always a compassionate response? That is an important question. I am sure many of us have seen the dogs who snipe back at the person sharing the need, “Oh brother, you need more faith.” Or, “I can’t believe you would do such a thing!”
Well that is encouraging and uplifting, don’t you think? Of course not. It is judgmental and unloving. I love that phrase, “What would Jesus do?” How would He respond to person in need? If someone came to Him and stated that they were struggling in an area, would He criticize and chastise them? Or would He wrap His arms around them and strengthen their faith?
I love the story about David and Jonathan. We read about it in I Samuel. There is one incident where we hear that David was beside himself in worry. Well read it:
“David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph. He was afraid because Saul was coming to kill him. But Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh. He helped David have stronger faith in God” (I Samuel 23:15,16).
One translation says it a little better, “(Jonathan) . . . strengthened his (David’s) hand in God.” Isn’t that great? I am currently thinking of my friend, Lyle Dorr.” How many times has Lyle strengthened my hand in God? Or his, I? How about you, have you found yourself strengthening the hand of someone close to you? There is such joy in being able to do that for a friend. I have had the joy of making several friends on Facebook—some I treasure deeply. I have sought to strengthen their hand in God—and they have done the same for me.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome