Quick…fill in the blank: I urge you my friends in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the ___________ of the Spirit, to join me in prayer. What word did you use to fill in the blank? Power? That’s the word I would have used but that’s not the word Paul uses in Romans 15:30: “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” He uses love. Why?
Since I’m not a theologian I can’t tell you for sure what the official answer is. But I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now and these are just some of the thoughts that came to mind. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a monetary gift collected by the Gentile Christian churches of Macedonia and Achaia for the Jewish Christian church whose people were in desperate need. What an incredible thing was happening there!
Jews and Gentiles didn’t do things for or with each other. But in the name of Christ and in honor of the grace and salvation brought to the Gentiles through the Jews as God’s chosen people to whom Jesus revealed himself first, they collected funds for the Jewish Christians who desperately needed the aid. Let’s remember that at this time they were in the middle of the first church worship wars. Yes, even then, the church disagreed on the “proper way” to worship God. There were Jewish Christians who insisted that all non-Jewish believers must become Jewish (men be circumcised and Jewish rituals observed) or they weren’t really Christians. I’m sure they had some conflicting ideas on the music that was sung and the prayers that were said too. Putting all disagreements and racial distrust aside, those who had gave to those that didn’t.
Paul had never met the Roman Christians before but I’m sure that by then, they probably had at least heard stories of him. This letter was his introduction to them. Though they had never met, Paul asks them to join him in his mission by praying with and for him. And that is why I think he used the phrase “love of the Spirit” rather than the expected “power of the Spirit.” Love is a unique power that we have access to because God himself is love. 1 John tells us that we love because he first loved us. Grace is a product of God’s love for us and Jesus' love for the Father. The Spirit is a gift of love from the Father at Jesus request for all who believe. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance and companionship, we learn to hear God’s voice and grow in his likeness.
Love is a power we can’t fully comprehend but know when we see it. And know when we don’t. Paul has asked these brothers and sisters in the faith, strangers in reality, to share in this powerful bond. What a joy it is he’s asking them to share with him—that they would be with him in God’s work. He is inviting them to be a fundamental part of spreading the Gospel with him and blessing others.
I’m not sure that there is a bow to put on these simple musings except to say that I want to be a better prayer warrior. I want to love others in this way like I’ve never done before. That is my prayer.
May God’s love overflow from him to me to you. Amen.