Today we celebrate a saint who–although a leader of the early Christian church, considered a prophet to the fledgling church in Jerusalem, even perhaps the author of one or more of the epistles–is known primarily as a companion: Silas.
Silas is mentioned several times in the New Testament, particularly in the book of Acts (Acts 15:22–35, Acts 16:37–8, Acts 15:1–21, Acts 15:41–18:5). Further if Silas is the same person as Silvanus, which is the Latinized version of Silas, he may also be the Silvanus mentioned in 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and 1 Peter. Clearly a very active member of the early church, and one who spent his days talking about Christ and going forth into all the world proclaiming the Gospel.
In doing the work of spreading the Gospel Silas traveled with Paul to a number of cities across Asia and Eastern Europe. Silas walked, sailed, and one could imagine perhaps maybe he even rode with Paul on his missionary journeys. The bible reports that the two were imprisoned, beaten, expelled from countries…they started new churches, they drove out evil spirits, they preached to huge crowds. Along their way together they were certainly mocked and heckled and probably left a bad taste in the mouths of many who heard the witness of their faith and still turned away from these two travelers.
For all of that Silas earns the title: “companion of Paul.”
“Companion” seems to fit better, I think, than say, “assistant of Paul,” or, “supporter of Paul,” and certainly better than, “sidekick of Paul.” “Companion” has the connotation of intimacy and bond that is lacking in other synonyms like, “aide,” or, “associate,” or even, “colleague.” One of the entries that Dictionary.com provides for companion is the following: “a person employed to accompany, assist, or live with another in the capacity of a helpful friend.” I would argue that as much as Silas was a companion to Paul–as his churchly title proclaims–Paul was also a companion to Silas.
In the walk of faith that we undertake as Christians today, I wonder who are our companions. Who are the people that we feel walk with us, “in the capacity of a helpful friend,” with whom we share our struggles and successes with our faith? With whom do we share those times when maybe we feel abandoned by God, and also those times when we feel the holy touch of God directly as we live our lives of faith? Who do we trust with those moments? Who do we let see so deeply inside of us that we would share perhaps some of our deepest sorrows and highest joys? With who are we that open?
To be a companion on the spiritual journey of belief is to be both trusted by the other and to be vulnerable to the other. It is not a place for egos, vanity or mind games, but a responsibility to faithfulness. That responsibility extends through our faith and love both to God, and the other whom we call companion. Being a companion is not done by oneself, you see, it is done with someone, just as being a Christian means being a Christian with others–Christianity is not a religion that creates individuals, it is a religion that creates community, even companionship.
Let us today give thanks for those in our lives who are our companions. Especially, let us give thanks for those who are our companions in our faith lives, for they are precious and to be cherished, and perhaps like Silas are even saints.