Who was your favorite person to have visit when you were a kid? I honestly can’t think of one favorite. I loved it when Grandparents came; not because they necessarily brought some gift, but it was exciting just having them come. Of course whenever cousins came to visit there was great fun playing together, but even when just the uncles or aunties would visit I distinctly remember it being something we looked forward to with great eagerness. Why? Again they didn’t usually bring gifts or treats but I wonder if it had something to do with the spiritual gift they brought with them?
In Romans 1:11-12 Paul expresses his eagerness, in fact a longing to come visit the Jesus followers in Rome and to bring to them a spiritual gift. He’s not speaking of the “gifts of the Spirit” rather it is singular, bring them a gift. What gift is that? It is a gift that will strengthen their faith. Actually the word is far stronger than that. It indicates a setting fast, making them unshakable, unalterable, focused and single minded in their devotion to and love for Jesus.
Wouldn’t you love for someone to bring you that gift? Wouldn’t you love to have a gift to give that could bring that for others? What gift could possibly do this? Paul describes it as being “mutually encouraged” by each other’s faith. On the surface that kind of feels like one of those gifts where it’s not quite what you hoped for, like underwear for Christmas, but you know you should be polite and grateful anyway.
But look deeper. “Mutually encouraged” is actually one word. It’s a compound word and the base of it is the same word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit; comforter or counselor, or advocate or helper. The implication in Romans is that the gift Paul brings is the ministry of the Holy Spirit who through Paul brings strength and healing and purpose and greater devotion to Jesus in the people whom he visits.
This is not a gift that only apostles or pastors have to give. If you are a Jesus follower you have this gift to give. Paul indicates it goes both ways; he to them and they to him. When you engage in a conversation ask God to give this gift through you. It can happen in any conversation, but it is most profound when both parties are intending and expecting to give and receive a spiritual gift.