After giving thanks that the faith of the believers in Rome had spread throughout the country and assuring them of his prayers, Paul reveals his longing for them and his desire to come for a visit. Commitment to a common cause draws people together and that is displayed in the apostle’s deep desire to come to Rome and share with them some truths that will serve to strengthen them in the faith. The “spiritual gift” of which he speaks is not the kind mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, but insights received from the Spirit intended for the benefit of the church. Then, very quickly lest he be misunderstood, he adds that when they are together he is encouraged by their faith in the same way that they are by his. His concern shows a tender regard for the other person. He may be the apostle with a mission to take the Christian faith throughout the world (a sort of first century Billy Graham), but he is still simply one of them, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A person’s true character is more often than not revealed in the unplanned and spontaneous moments of life. When we have time to plan how we expect to communicate the person we believe we are, it doesn’t ring true. Of course, it could be dangerous to be too transparent, but isn’t it a sign of genuine maturity to arrive spiritually at the point where we feel free to be ourselves. I may be repeating myself but I would like to say again that who we are is who we have become through the myriad of decisions we have made along the way. We are not what we have or what we have done. All that stands alone and hopefully it has been helpful. We are the man who gave up a tennis match to spend time with a hopeful son, the woman who refused to pass on a bit of gossip she had heard.
Life is essentially qualitative. Character is not what or how or why, but simply is. We build it by a life of decisions in matters that have ethical significance. The decisions, especially the small ones, that you have made throughout today are now part of you. Our character is as strong as we have made it through the years. It doesn’t get us to heaven – only an active faith in the shed blood of Christ can do that – but it does display for the believer the stature and beauty of life where concern for the other is dominant.