February 26, 2014.
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I have been talking with a few people recently about the family of God and the fellowship/connection we should have with one another. I believe our connection as brothers and sisters in Christ is vital to our spiritual walk. In fact, I heard a story yesterday of a guy who went to a middle eastern country to do mission work and upon arrival he was stripped of all things remotely related to Christianity. He didn’t meet a single Christian his whole trip. When he got back, he was completely drained spiritually. I don’t believe that the Christian faith was ever set up to run individually. We talk so much today about a “personal God” and an “faith of your own.” Whereas I know what we are getting at when we say this (and there is even some truth in the two), I think that these phrases exclude the aspect of our faith that is so vitally important: the community. I’ve heard it said, “I don’t want organized religion, just give me Jesus!”– well, I think that’s missing the point.
When the church was established in the New Testament era, the apostles spoke hard against divisions. And in truth, when it was first established in Acts 2, there was a level of community that we would be greatly uncomfortable with today:
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
And isn’t that the difference between Eastern and Western thought? We in the west focus on the individual whereas those in the East focus on the family. I believe the church was established in Eastern thought for a reason, and it would be to our benefit if we took the hint. The more focused on the individual we are, the more selfish we become. The more focused on the family we are, the more love for others we gain. I know that it isn’t that cut and dry, but as a general rule it holds true. It is a hard saying, but honestly, the Christian ideology does not align with the American Dream. I’m afraid this is something that many who claim the name of Christ are going to have to come to terms with if they truly want to live for Christ.
Why is this so important? Let’s consider the writing of Paul:
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you but thus far have been prevented, in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”
“I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
(1 Corinthians 16:5-9)
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.”
I don’t mention all of these verses just to bore you. Look at the emotion and longing to see the saints that Paul has in each of these passages. This longing can be seen in his other letters, as well as those of Peter and John. The church longed to be together, even when they were physically separated. Have we lost this longing today? To some extent I believe we have.
So how do we get it back? I don’t have a magic answer that will just fix it all. I think it is going to take time and effort. But every restoration movement has to start somewhere. I think we should start with the simple act of truly loving those in our own congregations, and then those in the surrounding congregations. This bond, though it may seem all too simple, I believe is going to be the hardest to make. Let us love one another, and sacrifice for one another. Then we will start mending the house of God. A house divided against itself will not stand. Let us put aside our petty differences and come together to glorify God in the way he originally set it up to work.
Suggested Daily Reading: Acts 2, 4, 5, 20.
The Lord send his peace to you.