Sunday, November 11, 2012

Givers and Takers, Part 3: The Church: Caring Community

"All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved." (Acts 2:42-47)

The early church: A ragtag bunch of believers in Jesus Christ, in the midst of a world which viewed them with suspicion and derision. Increasingly disliked by those in power, they had a choice to make: They could either back off of their newfound faith (so as to fit back in to the culture), or they could go forward, depending on God and each other (by building a radically new kind of community together). They chose the latter, and they decided to commit to this newfound community and to 'having each other's back'. ONE of the ways this showed up was in their generosity toward one another. When there was a need (as there often was), they willingly sold pieces of property, etc. and donated the money!

They simply gave it away!

How were they able to do this? How did they get there?

They had a fundamental shift in their view of life and identity. They saw themselves as Christians, first. Everything else was less important. 

This meant that, if they were talented, wealthy, intelligent, etc., that mattered less than their identity as a group of Christ followers. Their priorities had changed--and now they saw their first allegiance as to the Lord and one another, not to their job, their country, or anything else.

They continued this way--building this radically new kind of community. 

"All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need." (Acts 4:32-35)

So...what does this have to do with US, TODAY?

Well, given my post from yesterday (read Pt. 2 below this one), it's no secret that I see our society as become more self-centered and becoming more of a 'taking' culture. This will, I believe, coincide with more outright and blatant hostility toward the true Church--those followers of Jesus who want to live un-apologetically uncompromising lives. Believers who take the Word of God as their standard, who stick to it, and make no compromises--no matter what kind of pressure is brought from society. 

Make no mistake: Things could get much more difficult and hostile in the American Church. 

So be it.

If we--the American Church--is going to survive, and to continue to carry out our mission on this earth--we are going to HAVE TO learn to lean on each other again, and form this radically-new kind of community again.

No more 'playing church', and no more compromising the standards of the Lord simply to get along.

We're going to have to start to view our identity as Christians first (including the Biblical roles God gives us--Husband, Father, etc.), Americans 2nd, and everything else later. 

We're going to have to start being generous--especially with those within the Church.

The pressure which may be brought upon us via a culture that rejects us with increasing hostility might just be the thing which God uses to help us--His people--to become The Church that He designed us to be again.

Let us respond prayerfully, faithfully, and generously...and watch Him work in powerful ways again!

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