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The church: is it a radical community?

24 Dec

Eric/Wendy’s December 2015 newsletter from Rwanda

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Letter to Diognetus (AD 125): “Although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time (Christians) give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens…they busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go beyond what the laws require. They love all man, and by all men are persecuted…

blood of lambLetter to Hadrian (AD 125): “The Christians know and trust their God…If any of them have bondwomen or children, they persuade them to become Christians for the love they have toward them; and when they become so, they call them “brother” without distinction. They love one another…If they see a stranger, they take him into their dwellings and rejoice over him as a real brother; for they do not call each other brother after the flesh, but after the Spirit of “”God. If any among them is poor and needy, and they do not have food to spare, they fast two or three days that they may supply him with necessary food. But, the deeds which they do, they do not proclaim to the ears of the multitude, but they take care that no man shall perceive them. Thus they labor to become righteous. Truly, this is a new people and there is something divine in them.”

(Mark 3:32-35)  “A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” {33} “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. {34} Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! {35} Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.””

When the first Christians were made part of the New Testament church, begun on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, they knew hardly anything of Jesus and nothing at all of the “church.” Yet, immediately, they were thrust into a fellowship of other believers – a radical, consuming community which supplanted every other loyalty.

What did the church look like? They “devoted themselves” to meeting with a relative strangers (Acts 2:42). They sold their possessions to support one another (Acts 4). They met daily with their new friends to worship and commune in each other’s homes (Acts 2:46). They even rejoiced together when suffering persecution and ridicule!

All this had a revolutionary impact on the families, businesses, and friendships of these first Christians. Old loyalties were exchanged for new ones. The church became almost overnight the primary “reference group” for its members. In the New Testament, the church commanded the primary allegiance of disciples. No other group of people was allowed to take precedence over God’s people.

Even family ties were subordinated to the family of God. Families of origin were put at risk and even broken:

(Mark 10:29-30)  “”I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel {30} will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

This radical sense of community was true of the first century church. Is it true of the church today? Is it true that many other loyalties compete with our devotion to the body of Christ?

All that mattered in the 1st century was being in Christ. (Gal. 3:26-29)  “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, {27} for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. {28} There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. {29} If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

We have an opportunity in this place at this time to rediscover what a radical community the church of Jesus can be. Are we willing to place as much importance on being together and serving each other as the early church? Can we adopt a new ethic for living life in this community? Perhaps we need to realize that the church is God’s means of saving us, and that we cannot make it alone!

Unity was demanded at Corinth by Paul. Read 1 Cor. 1:10-16 and 3:1-3.

Some evils of division. 1. Division among believers is wrong because it is directly opposed to the prayer of Jesus.

  1. Division among believers is wrong because it is contrary to the Scriptures.
  2. Division among God’s people is wrong because it results in a waste of time, means, and energy. Just imagine how powerful God’s cause would be if all believers worked in harmony!
  3. Division is wrong because it retards the salvation of lost souls. Several have told me that they are going to “try” every church until they find the right one.“ Sinners are confused by the conflicting doctrines and practices of various religious groups. Unity an individual obligation to Christians. (Eph 4:3) “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Close by reading of the divine standard of unity. Eph 4:4-6.

How divisions can be avoided?  2 Timothy 2:14-23 (ESV)
14  Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

23  Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 24, 2015 in Church

 

One response to “The church: is it a radical community?

  1. Terry Davenport

    December 27, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Very good

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

     

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