by Meagan Mankin
As we walk under the bond of Covenant with one another, the call is high. The weight of John 13:34 is nonnegotiable as Jesus commands, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” And later Paul writes in Galatians, “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
Loving like Christ and walking with others in community are not easy things. There are deep hurts in our community. Many people are walking through hard trials with heavy loads to bear. Our relationships are messy, our time is stretched thin, and often we feel inadequate. But by God’s great mercy, he has not only called us to come alongside others, but also has provided the means and ability to do it well. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,” reads 2 Peter 1:3.
As I look for examples of how this is lived out biblically, I am particularly struck by this man, Epaphras. We don’t know a lot about Epaphras. He doesn’t have his own book in the bible, or his own letter to the people of Colossae. Instead, Epaphras is a preacher and someone who came to Paul while he was in prison to give reports on the church in Colossae. What strikes me most about Epaphras, though, is his heart for fellow believers.
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” (Colossians 4:12)
I want to be more like Epaphras. I want to be someone who is walking so surrendered to Jesus that I am always struggling on the behalf of other believers. Not sometimes, not every once and a while when it is convenient, but always.
When I think of struggling, I get the picture of a wrestler. A sweaty, messy, tired wrestler who is face to face with his opponent, arms locked in the battle. But this wrestler is equipped for the fight. With a firm confidence in who he is, he wrestles from a position of authority. The struggle is just a means to an end, not the end in itself.
Ephesians 6: 12 reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Epaphras knew that our battle was in the spiritual realm. He knew the enemy sought for believers to not reach maturity in Christ and stay unaware of their identity and the authority of Heaven backing them. Epaphras knew if we are fighting a spiritual battle, then we must fight with a spiritual weapon, prayer.
If we truly believed that prayer is our first and foremost priority and greatest means for fighting this spiritual battle, wouldn’t our prayers look a little different and a lot more frequent?
Covenant relationships should look crazy to the outside world. As Christians, our desire should be to look more like the early church in the book of Acts. We need to be seeking after “normal, biblical Christianity,” which probably couldn’t look more different than everyday life in the Western Hemisphere. In a world that cries out “me, me, me,” the Gospel responds, “less of me and more of You, God.” It constantly draws us back to the Great Commandment, to love the Lord and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Does this rest heavy on you, as well? I encourage you to ask someone to coffee and get to know the stories of people in our community. Pray with people and for people. Prayerfully struggle for other’s maturity and fullness in Christ on their behalf. A healthy Covenant community should be covered by the prayers of its people for one another. Let the example of Epaphras spur us on to love well and pray fervently.