Never in a bajillion years would I have ever considered studying the word ‘saint’ had I not been challenged to embrace my identity as a saint and follower of Jesus Christ through my Certificate in High Trust Leadership class. One of the core teachings in my class is that I am a saint now – in Christ. I no longer call myself a sinner.
Do I sin?
Of course I do.
However, my identity lies in what Christ has done for me when I accepted Him as my Savior and Lord. He is alive and at work in my heart, in my soul, in my body, and in my life! I am a saint, as the class facilitators have shared, who happens to sin. I am no longer a sinner – separated from Christ. I am in fellowship with Him and enjoy His abiding wonders of grace and love.
I’ve been camped on this saint word study for about two months now. Honestly, it has been a surprising study for me. I didn’t expect to encounter this word so often – especially in the Old Testament.
Call me naïve.
Then, this past week I unearthed the word saint in Romans 12! This is the passage I have been reading daily this year as I have pondered if I can really live out a Romans 12 Life. If you read the New International Version, as I do, we don’t read the word saint in Romans 12:13.
Here is the NIV translation:
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. New International Version, Romans 12:13
However, if you pull out the New American Standard Version, Romans 12:13 is read this way:
…contributing to the needs of the saints – practicing hospitality.
Or the King James Version:
Distributing to the needs of the saints; practicing hospitality.
There it is!
And what is amazingly striking to me is that these saints have needs!
Today, we tend to glorify the saints and make them ‘other-worldly’ – considering them without need. We, as Christ followers – at least my friends and family – don’t tend to call ourselves saints. We use words like Christian and Believer.
Yet, when the NIV replaces the word saint with ‘God’s people’ that somehow settles the issue. Of course God’s people have needs!
We have needs, right?
We have needs that are necessary for our life – to help us thrive and not just survive in the day in and day out challenges of life.
What is important to note from this Romans 12 narrative is that the saints in this community were aware of their friends’ needs. The words ‘contributing,’ ‘sharing,’ and ‘distributing’ communicate an authentic cooperation in this faith community to address the real and present needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ. There were no masks here – no one hid or negated their struggle. The saints in this community knew each other. There was mutual care and attention. These saints sheltered, loved and protected one another.
And, they helped strangers too!
Their hospitality not only opened their homes and hearts to friends, but to wanderers, in need of shelter and care. Matthew Henry wrote about this community of saints this way, “They drew out the soul, but drew out their purse to the hungry and distressed as well.”
I want to be that kind of saint!
I desire to be a generous saint – giving freely – giving cheerfully – giving lovingly – by addressing and coming alongside those in very real need.
It’s not easy though, is it?
Who are the people in our lives who are really willing to share the depth of their need without shame – with us?
Do we even know who is hurting in our midst?
Too often, we wear masks that conceal our pain, our struggle, and our failure.
We don’t want people to think that we don’t have it all together.
We don’t want them to know that our kids are hurting.
We don’t want them to know that we are in a situation where our debt is out of control.
We don’t want them to know that we doubt God’s love.
We don’t want them to know that we are afraid, anxious, and becoming paralyzed.
We don’t want them to know that we have a secret addiction that has become our coping mechanism.
We don’t want them to know that we have lost hope.
We don’t want them to know that we aren’t praying that much anymore.
We don’t want them to know that we don’t know who we are.
We don’t want you to know that we consider you unsafe – we can’t trust you with our junk – because we don’t know if you will really plop yourself into our sticky, ugly mess and love us.
Would you settle into and make yourself comfortable in the chaotic, uncertain life of someone else – a fellow saint – who really, really needed a trusted friend and confidant?
That’s what the Romans 12 faith community was encouraged to do – day in and day out. These saints were for each other. They were given permission to share their need and then they were protected and sheltered by their families, friends, and community when they did.
Does such a faith community of saints exist today?
It’s difficult to tell if today’s Believers love like this at times, because we rarely hear stories of such generosity and love – especially in the media. I also know that there are people who have a pretty harsh view of Christians because of how some have acted so exclusionary and in some cases so mean and hurtful towards them.
Yet, I am certain loving and generous mutual care can begin with two people who choose to trust. These are God’s people – God’s saints – willing to open up their hearts in a transparent, authentic way by giving permission to one another to protect and care for one another through their struggles, through their shame, through their needs, through their failures, and through their lives.
Do you have such a friend in Christ?
Do you have a place to share where you give permission to someone or others to hear your story and in turn, they protect and nurture you as you seek to experience divine health? No judgment. No condemnation. Just a commitment to live life with you and walk forward….
It can happen.
It has happened – the Romans 12 community shows us the way!
These saints admitted their need without fear or rejection in a safe, embracing community of saints.
What a beautiful, kind and ideal expression of the love of Christ!
Who will you trust with your needs?
Such a bold, courageous step begins with you and me – being honest with ourselves. We need a trusted saint to walk with us in this life journey we call faith.
I will. Will you?
Image retrieved from Days of Grace