Sometimes a single word can bring a thousand memories to mind, words like: “Mom,” “Dad” or “Sweetheart.” Some names from the Bible are like that. Adam and Eve make us think of Paradise Lost. Noah brings to mind the flood. David makes us think of Goliath, Bathsheba, his role as Israel’s king and the twenty-third Psalm.
In the New Testament there is Peter, the outspoken fisherman who regularly put his foot in his mouth, but also loved Jesus. In the book of Acts we discover Saul, who was famous for persecuting the church and then helping it grow as the Apostle Paul.
Paul was blessed to have Epaphras serving alongside him, however, only serious Bible students know his name. I am including him in my list because he represents most of us; people who make a positive contribution to life, but who remain largely unknown. This does not mean he made no difference. Paul referred to him as a “fellow servant” and “faithful minister.”
The name Epaphras means “lovely” which is significant since at the time people were often given names based upon who they were. You were not named “Lovely” if you were not. Paul’s ministry was more effective because Epaphras served faithfully alongside him.
More than one thousand years later, Martin Luther was the face of the reformation. He bravely stood up to the corrupt religious system of his day. He once said, “I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils…” His sometimes-abusive language and very public disputes eventually led to him being excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
At first glance he appeared to need no one but God, but that was not true, his role in changing the world was aided by a man in the shadows who in his own way was as essential to the reformation as Luther. Philip Melancthon was a scholar. While Luther had warmth, vigor and explosive strength, Melancthon possessed discretion and clarity of thought. Luther energized his quiet friend and Melancthon balanced his. Luther convinced common people of the truths of the reformation, but it took Melancthon to win the support of scholars.
When Luther died Melancthon spoke at his grave. When Melancthon died he was buried beside Luther. The two still rest side by side in the Old Castle Church at Wittenberg. Each made the other better.
Scripture describes the kind of relationship they had this way, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17, NLT)
All of us need others. Good friends make each other better. Whether you are a leader, a follower, someone comfortable with the status quo, or someone who questions everything, you can be more effective when you are exposed to a friend’s fresh perspective. Simply put, wise supportive friends make one another better.