There are sometimes those friends, maybe only once in a lifetime, that you can’t quite believe. They are constant as the sunrise. Persistently, they are their wonderful selves to your benefit and everyone else who knows them. They are not “nice”; they are ruthlessly generous. They are willing to slog though the difficult seasons. They are willing to risk it all for what they know is true. And by God’s grace, they are called on a journey running parallel to your own. At the end of your rope, you glance to the side and see them smiling, happy to see you and ready to believe the best.
Our thirsty souls need friends. Even when we are married, if two become one, we still find the need for the “other” in our hearts. It is not fully satisfied even by spiritual devotion to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or any combination thereof, because we were not intended to go it alone through this life. It’s too hard. It’s too lonely. We’re too prideful. And there is too much to be missed!
So long as we know ourselves, we recognize immediately those destined for the companionship of shared vision, shared motivation, bound together in God’s love. We see what we know is true in our own heart in the eyes of the friend, in the curl of their smile. Then they reminded us that the truth we know is outside ourselves. We know we did not imagine it, because Look, there! They see it, too!
The apostle Paul had such friends in Priscilla and Aquila. They were fellow Jews newly arrived in Corinth, refugees in the Jewish expulsion from Rome under the Emperor Claudius. They were tentmakers like Paul. They connected easily and quickly during Paul’s visits to the synagogue, and their hearts were open to the gospel. Paul as a Jewish believer himself would have explained that the Messiah Jesus opened the way for gentiles, too. And here, they were united in one vision.
We know they relocated with Paul to Ephesus and hosted a church in their home. They risked their lives to save Paul in some story now lost to us. They were always a comfort, a fond memory to Paul. Even as his end drew near, he remembered their faithfulness to their shared obsession that more would know Christ.
I’m struck by how the activities of the early church were strung together by a vast network of friends, held together by letters and visits from travelers like Paul. Many of the people mentioned in Paul’s letters knew each other, and would have heard about each others struggles and testimonies of God’s faithfulness from their friends in other countries. For a small and scattered group, any one victory was a victory for them all. Any loss, a loss for all.
When Paul was writing his second letter to Timothy, he was in prison for what would be the last time. He may have perceived the end drawing near, but he asked for Timothy to bring him supplies so he could keep doing what he loved. He tells of betrayal and abandonment. And he thanks Timothy to greet Aquila and Priscilla, his faithful friends. It is here that we find the full scope of their devotion to the cause for which they had all three lived for. At the end of his life, when so many others had come and gone, his faithful partners from the early days in Corinth were on his mind, a comfort when there was little to be found. May we all be so blessed to serve such a noble cause and to make the journey with such beautiful friends!
~ Joni Butler