Change is an inevitable part of life. It is the constant of the world we live in no matter how much we try to cling to good things and keep things that we enjoy alive, changes happen. Even in ministry and church the world of change hits us. We have good bible study groups, good prayer meetings, good worship services and revival that happens, but like all things these come to an end. Relationships form, they grow and unfortunately they also part because of circumstances. This is simply fact and even in these changes, new good things can be formed.
Paul is on the coast near Ephesus so he calls for the elders of the church to come down to him. It is here that he gives them a final speech that amounts to saying a goodbye to them that indicates they will never see him again. For both Paul and these elders it is an emotional moment, they have been through a lot together. It is a tear filled moment but it is made easier by the fact the character of their relationship is such that they can say goodbye with tears of love and to tears of regret.
Paul firstly always lived his life according to the truth. He did not hold back in telling them the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He did not keep anything from them and encouraged them to be truthful and honest with him in return. He was probably gentle and loving when he did this but he knew the importance of honest relationships. This kind of honesty leads to easier goodbyes because everything that needed to be said has been said. Funerals are full of this kind of regret that people did not say what they should have said. Paul was assured because of his honesty that this regret was not a part of his life.
Secondly Paul prepared the elders for what lies ahead. When relationships are good ones, everyone is learning from one another. In Paul’s case the relationship was about preparing those elders to be leaders of the church. He warns them of the false prophets and brethren to come and then prepared them for this. All good relationships have this learning element and if we honor those relationship we honor what they taught us and keep practicing it in honor of that relationship. Paul had taught them what they needed to be taught and the rest was up to them. He could walk away knowing he had done all he could.
Finally Paul lived his life with the axiom ‘Owe Nothing but Love”. He provided for himself and was determined not to owe anything to anyone and to covet nothing that other people had. Debts always sour a relationship. Let me say that again: debts always sour a relationship. It is better to have relationships without debts and are full of love. The best line I ever heard about this is from Dave Ramsey : “Thanksgiving dinner tastes different when you having it with your parents instead of your master.” That is why it is better to give than receive. It is better to help expecting nothing but love in return. Paul did not keep track of others debts to him nor did he pile up his own with them. He just loved them.
By living life the way he did Paul could say his goodbyes and there was no unfinished business. He could walk away sorrowful but content. This is what made his goodbye with them easier to do.