36 After he said this, he knelt down and prayed with all of them.37 There was a great deal of weeping by everyone. And embracing Paul, they kissed him,38 grieving most of all over his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.1 After we tore ourselves away from them and set sail, we came by a direct route to Cos, the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.Acts 20:36-21:1 (HCSB)
People…they can make life difficult in more ways than one. Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian Elders was difficult, not because he’s leaving a task he loved, but because he was leaving people he loved. Of course, not everyone brought joy to Paul’s life. Paul and his good friend Barnabas had a difference of opinion and split up. Paul says of one man: 14 Alexander the coppersmith did great harm to me. The Lord will repay him according to his works (2 Timothy 4:14, HCSB). Yikes!
Even though people add a layer of difficulty to life, we were nevertheless created for relationships. They can be great. I hear stories all the time around New Life how this person helped out, how that person was there for me in a difficult time, and the like. And people can be challenging, too – many of my counseling sessions deal with forgiving others.
When I read Luke’s account of Paul’s departure, here’s the question that comes to mind: If I were to leave tomorrow, headed to Timbuktu, would there be a “great deal” of weeping? Would folks have to “tear themselves away” from hugging my neck?
What about you? Do YOU have those types of relationships in the church? We should. But if we want to get there, we’ll have to be intentional about it…it takes more than attending church. We’ll have to give of ourselves to others. We’ll have to be unselfish. If we want friends, we’ll have to be friends.
That’s the way church is supposed to be.