And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
Imagine what it was like for the people in Paul’s day, those close relationships that formed as they were building churches from the ground up. Filled with the Spirit of God, the love of God, and the joy of the Lord, they ministered together. They established these significant connections as they grew and learned together. Truly united in Christ and in purpose, they built bonds that lasted a lifetime. But now Paul’s calling is taking him in a different direction, and these friends from Ephesus will see him no more, and they mourn the loss that separation will bring.
There were no telephones, no Internet, no airplanes, none of the things that keep us so easily connected nowadays. Travel was slow, and so was communication. Even distances of only hundreds of miles could mean people’s paths wouldn’t cross again. And even if they had letters and heard the news of what was happening, there was something special about that face-to-face relationship. There was something they would miss not getting to see Paul in person anymore.
What kind of relationships are we building within our churches today? Sometimes it seems like, despite all the ways we can stay connected, relationships are more shallow and less meaningful. We’re not willing to step out of our boxes and get involved in other people’s lives. We’re not willing to open ourselves up to others and experience the kind of fellowship the body of Christ is supposed to enjoy. There are so many things to be distracted by, so many other things to pursue, so many individual lives to live that we hardly know how to be a community anymore, in some ways.
But we have the same opportunity as the people back in Paul’s day to build something together—not just a church, but a local body, not just acquaintances, but close friends that seem like family. We can build relationships full of shared experiences and shared goals as we minister for the Lord and serve alongside each other. We can be a part of what is happening, in the midst, forging those connections that are solidified only by being in the fire together. We can truly impact the lives of others in positive ways simply by being who God created us to be and doing what He’s called us to do.