Paul opens his letter to the Romans with a brief, but packed introduction of himself. (You can read about that here.) In verse 7 of the first chapter, he shifts his attention to those whom he's writing: the believers in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.
We don't know for sure if Paul knew these saints personally, but we do know Paul did not plant the churches they belonged to in Rome, nor did he likely lead any of them to Christ. Yet right up front we find that Paul is praying for the body of believers in Rome. We would be hard pressed to imagine that's he's just saying that he prayes for them because he is calling upon God himself to serve as a witness of his prayers. In addition to praying for these saints, he's praying for a way to go see these believers.
From Romans 15:22-33, we can see that Paul has a plan to journey on to Spain and hopes to pass through Rome. He's hoping to be helped along on his trip, but he also seems to have a desire to encourage and be encouraged by the Christians in Rome. Paul seeks fellowship with these believers. He want to break bread with them, pray with them, and spend a little time getting to know them. He wants to join them in making disciples, too. If we were not so tainted by our own experiences of churches outside our own, we might even think that Paul wants to integrate into the Body in Rome and he fully expects that he'll be welcomed with no issues.
Too often in our context today, we fail to pray for Christians working in other areas, both near and far. We tend to become isolated, thinking the Body of Christ is only our little local church, in our corner of the neighborhood. How often we fail to see God's Kingdom!
Imagine what it might be like the next time you visit another town to send an email ahead of time hoping to join and meet with a Christian Body in the area you're headed. And just think what that might be like to go without the judgement and critique. "Oh, that's how you do that? Well at our church we. . . ."
Being in Utah we see many missionaries and church planters come from other parts of the country completely oblivious to the reality that there are Christians in Utah. They haven't likely been praying for us and we probably haven't been praying for them. What a sad state of affairs. It's no wonder the disciple-making efforts in Utah are so challenged!
What causes us to be so self-centered? Why is it so easy to be critical or judgemental of other believers in other parts of the country or even in our own backyard? Why don't we pray for other Christians more? What's it going to take for us to love the Body like Paul loved the Body?
I certainly hope we at Redeeming Life can take a lesson from Paul. First, we probably need to understand what's keeping us from being more Kingdom minded. Then I hope we can find ways to pray and have a deep excitement for Christians in other areas. I hope we will really understand that we are but only one small part of the Body. Oh how amazing it would be to love the saints like Paul loved the saints!
I pray your house fellowship will remember to pray for the other Redeeming Life house fellowships, other churches in the area, and other Christians around the world. I hope you'll develop a deep love for other Christians, even if they are strangers to you at the moment. And I hope you'll see that the Body is so much more than just the local group you worship with under the same roof.
Soli Deo gloria!