The Apostle Paul asked the Corinthians a hard and perplexing question. At first I thought it may have been triggered by his often perilous life circumstances. Then I realized it was more. He wrote, "Why are we in danger every hour?" Yes, he had battled animals, opponents, and the authorities. Danger was always real. In this instance, however, his question was protesting the Corinthian's caution, wanting them to be more aggressive in their work and expressions of faith. It was more of a pun than anything else. He wasn't afraid. He knew something.
Paul knew about spiritual protection. His was a multi-layered courage that equipped him to live boldly in hard times. He knew the promised presence of Christ in his ministry life, the sufficiency of God's grace for the challenges he faced every day, and the God given strength he would need for life in those rigorous times. But, he also knew the protection of other Christians and their partnership in the Gospel. So, his boldness was an admixture of totally relying on God in every circumstance, and then depending on God's people to stand along side of him when he was challenged or threatened by "the human element". His letters testify to the many instances other Christians helped him deal with difficulties. Euodia and Syntyche and Clement labored side by side with him (Philippians 4:2-3). The Philippian people shared his troubles (Philippians 4:14). A fellow prisoner Aristarchus, along with Mark, and Justus were a comfort to him (Colossians 4:10-11) and Epaphrus, one who struggled and worked with Him (Colossians 4:12-13). Paul knew the joys and confidence of Imw/U. That reads, I AM WITH YOU.
The protection we should extend to one another isn't always strong arms and backs, the clinched fist, or the concealed carry permit in our wallet. This kind of protection takes several significant forms---
1. Strengthening faith in God.
One of the most precious friendships in the Bible was young David and his
friend Jonathan, King Saul's son. When King Saul sought to kill David and
preserve his own throne, Jonathan went to David. The text indicates that he
"strengthened his hand in God". He pledged his friendship and swore that Saul
would not find him and that he, David, would be King of Israel. It was
protection by strengthening faith in God.
2. Warning about sinful and dangerous lifestyle issues.
Paul's letter to the Colossians includes instruction about their corporate life
and the word of protection one believer should bring to another. He wrote---
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one
another in all wisdom" (Colossians 3:16, ESV). Also note 1 Corinthians 4:14 in
this regard. Admonishment is a word of protection when offered in the right
spirit and the heart to keep someone special from dangerous behavior.
3. Encouragement to the fainthearted and help to the weak.
Once again, Paul's word was more than thoughtful advice. He had known
moments of intense threat and life danger. From experience he knew the lift of
an encouraging word and the hand of help. So, he wrote, "... encourage the
fainthearted, help the weak..." (1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV). It's incredible what
a word of encouragement can do when we're threatened or fearful.
4. Physical presence.
Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. His counsel touched every area of
human life, including the possible threat of being out-manned. So, he wrote
about the power of two, one of the great passages about our need for other
people. In that section are these words---"And though a man might prevail
against one who is alone, two will withstand him" (Ecclesiastes 4:12, ESV).
Sometimes just being there is enough protective armor for those facing hard
and difficult circumstances.
5. The giving of a human life.
Jesus said it to indicate the giving of his life for those he loved in intense
spiritual friendship---"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down
his life for his friends" (John 15:13, ESV). This is a love that is hard for people
afflicted with "the human element" to grasp. But, we do read about it, one
person sacrificing their lives to save another. It is a protection above anything
we can perceive, an expression of God's immense, unfathomable love for us.
But, it is a protection we may offer for others, our life, the ultimate gift and
expression of protection.
IMW/U seems somewhat hollow today. Saying I AM WITH YOU used to mean till death do us part, in sickness and in health, in richer or poorer times, through thick and thin, no matter what, hell and high water, and all the other axioms of standing strong with another. It is the protective measure of our military personnel, the servants in police and first responder careers, to law enforcement agencies, and those many others on the front lines of danger. But, it should be the strength we derive from our family connections, the fellow believers at church, those of common faith and belief.
It should be our common cause, the declaration IAMW/U, I AM WITH YOU, a protective guard against the horrors of "the human element" in times like these.
IAMW/U. Say it. Tell it to your family and close friends.