“Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more …” (Acts 20:37-38)
I was still a very young preacher when I was asked to come to a small rural congregation and preach for a week. I was thrilled and prayerful I would be able to in some way encourage them and lift them up.
They did not hold back in expressing their sentiments and quite frankly some moved me to tears at the close of the meeting.
There was one old farmer …wearing bib overalls at every service .. sometimes a bit unshaven having worked in the fields and with the livestock from before dawn till just before the starting time for each service. And in he would come, Bible in hand … hanging his straw hat on the rack in the small foyer and coming in and taking his usual place.
He was always kind and friendly but didn’t really say much. But the last night of the meeting made up for the whole week. He took me aside, and in a low bass sound … thanked me for choosing to give my life to preaching and teaching from as he said, “the Good Book!”
It was then he gave me a big ole ‘bear hug’ … and said, “Brother Bill. I had never heard of you or your name, but I want to say that if we never meet again this side of heaven you brought joy and thanksgiving to my soul reminding me of truths I somehow had lost track of.” And then … with tears in his eyes … he cried and said I love you, young man, keep up the good work!”
Now that was a loving goodbye!
Will I ever forget that conversation … not in a lifetime. He has long since left this world, but on one closing night of a gospel meeting, he encouraged a young preacher to grow and become a better preacher.
By the practicing of what has come to be identified as the “Golden Rule,” Jesus states in very plain language how we ought to be treating others, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
Neglect of family, of our loved ones, of dear and close friends, of our brothers and sisters in Christ is such a sad, hurtful, and very disappointing thing to experience.
We never know, do we, if the last conversation we shared will actually be the last one to be shared!
God has been so mindful of each one of us, “understanding our frame” … He revealed and preserved teachings that would improve the quality of our lives here while preparing us for eternal life.
Included in His mindfulness are many touching scenes of friends, family, and brethren saying goodbye. The catalog of each would be a large volume by itself.
One of the most moving and expressive examples was penned by inspiration in the writing of Luke as he described the apostle Paul’s summoning of, instructing, and admonishing of the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20.
So much could be said about this scene but let us focus more closely on how Paul used this opportunity to encourage, strengthen, and say in person just how much he loved each of these men!
This striking example of genuine love and appreciation from both Paul and the elders themselves is very visible! The value of one another … the love for one another … the caring for one another is clear and demonstrated and spoken!
So much more could be written but let us close this reading with the following thought: We can do better!
“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
Bill Fairchild, Jr.