v. 12 Or rather, so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both your and mine.
For the rest of Lent, I am switching from the Old Testament reading to the Epistle, so we'll be reflecting on Paul's letter to the Romans right through to Holy Week.
Paul writes Romans (unlike the rest of his New Testament letters) to a community he neither founded nor has visited. He hopes to go there, and this letter is a kind of introduction of himself (although it is much more than that as well). Our reading today is his opening remarks, an extended "Dear Romans," in which he extends his greetings, introduces himself, and gives thanks for the Roman community's faith about which he knows and "is procalimed throughout the world." Paul is very good at flattery.
I am struck by the verse that I highlight above, remembering that it is spoken to people he has never met. He assumes that his and their faith wll be "mutually encouraging."
We are more dependent on other people's faith than we are readily aware of or admit. Faith is a fundamentally difficult thing for an individal to have (some of us are given it as a gift but for many it is a struggle). Some (most?) of us simply wouldn't have faith if it were not for mutual encouragement.
As a religious leader, I suppose it is a requirement for my faith to be strong, but, in truth, it is highly dependent on yours. Without "mutual encouragement" my faith would whither on the vine. It is my privilege to be in a position to mutually encourage others (it is my "job") but don't for a second think that I do not need yours to encourage mine.
This is, fundamentally, how God works with us, using each other to create a community of faith, a community of mutual interdependence. This is true, as Paul seems to be saying, even when we do not know each other very well, or, truth to tell, at all. Faith breeds faith no matter what its source.