Each letter Paul wrote to congregations addressed serious expressions of evil. No congregation (ever!) has escaped serious expressions of evil within. Evil is the basic reality of the human state and existence. Each group of Christians stand before God by grace. No congregation stands before God in sinless godliness.

Though Paul addressed their problems, he let them know that they were a powerful force of encouragement to him. "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all..." (Romans 1:8). "I thank my God always concerning you..." (1 Corinthians 1:4). "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you" (Philippians 1:3). "We give thanks to God always for all of you..." (1 Thessalonians 1:2). Often Paul gave personal reasons for congregations uplifting his spirits.

Virtually every week this congregation moves my joy and amazement to a new level. They are at a level I never expected to experience. Because this congregation is composed of "superior" Christians? No. Because no member has problems? No. Because this congregation has active ministries devoted to doing good? We certainly have that, and that gives me great joy. But that is not the reason for my amazement and joy.

Sunday evening in our congregational family meeting I easily could have cried tears of gratitude. "Why? We were discussing uninteresting 'nuts and bolts' matters no one enjoys considering. Finding leaks, fixing water damage, painting, and hauling dirt are not typical topics of spiritual inspiration."

It was not the subjects. It was not the suggestions. It was not the plans of action. "Then whatever was it?" It was the heart. It was the attitude. It was the spirit. It was the fact that we are a community of people who are increasingly devoted to the heart and mind of Christ. I knew that there were differing views and opinions. But it was so obvious that it was never "me" versus "you" or "us" versus "them." I could sense the mutual trust. That powerfully encourages me! How blessed I am to be a part of a community of believers who nurture trust in each other as they deepen trust in God!

As long as we physically live, evil will be a huge part of our reality. We are sustained and will endure through God's goodness. Sinless perfection will never be an option. Yet, with Jesus' heart, godly attitudes, a Christ-like spirit, and devotion to nurturing love and trust, we ceaselessly encourage each other as we all struggle against evil.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 7 March 1999

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