Common bonds

by Michael E. Brooks

“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla . . . and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked” (Acts 18:1-3 NKJV).

Soon after our arrival in Bangladesh my wife and I were shopping in a local store. Suddenly, an American woman came to us and said, “I hear a familiar accent.” We talked, exchanged names and contact information, and went on our separate ways.

Later we made arrangements for visits and have since shared meals together and formed a casual friendship. Our homes in America are far apart, and we have few common interests, but on the other side of the world, just being English-speaking Americans is enough to draw us together.

Paul was in Corinth (in Greece) on his second major missionary journey. He had sent his traveling companions (Timothy and Silas) back to a previously visited city and was by himself.

Imagine his pleasure at discovering Aquila and Priscilla who were not only fellow Jews, but even shared the same occupation. Even more importantly it seems they may already have obeyed the Gospel and therefore were Christians, sharing Paul’s faith. If not, Paul soon converted them (Compare Acts 18:24-26).

Most nations provide “clubs” for ex-patriots. The American club in Dhaka is a place where U.S. citizens who are residents in Bangladesh (not just tourists) may come, enjoy one another’s company, eat, and find recreational facilities. Such clubs are popular and provide needed familiarity in what is otherwise a strange environment.

I have worked in a number of communities in the U.S. Some of these have been in the same region of the country where I was born and grew up. Yet even there I have often found myself to be an outsider, not fully accepted, at least at first. Though I shared many things in common with the locals, I was not from there, and therefore did not belong.

The further people are from home, the less common ground is needed to draw them together. Simply speaking the same language may be enough. On the contrary, when we have most things in common, more is required. Even small differences frequently keep us from relating closely.

Far too often we let the wrong factors determine our relationships. Some physical characteristics, a common sports interest, or perhaps just regional bias determines who our friends and close companions are. We exclude people with whom we have more important ties (relatives, fellow Christians) in favor of those who satisfy superficial whims.

Christian fellowship is a vital key to our eternal salvation. Without encouragement from other believers no one is able to resist sin. For this reason, association with other believers is encouraged and commanded in Scripture.

“Be kindly affectionate to one another, with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

 

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

 

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Whatever else we have in common with our closest companions, we should share faith in Christ. Who can be of more help to us than another sincere Christian? Who can be more desirable as a companion? We need each other. Thanks to God for providing Christian fellowship.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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