This is the picture Scripture paints of the early church. Believers coming together to worship, fellowship and encourage. To pray, support and uphold one another. And they came with great joy and generosity. This wasn’t reserved for the Sabbath. It didn’t happen just once a week. This was every day, life on life living.
Is this the picture of the church today? Is this an accurate representation of the Christian lifestyle in 2018? Is it supposed to be?
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
1 Peter 4:8-10 (NLT)
We’re to show deep love for each other, cheerfully share our homes. And did you catch the last part? We are to use the gifts God has given us to serve one another. Scripture tells us over and over again that we are to love as Christ loved and that we are to be servants, servants to God and servants to people. But what does this look like in our daily living? How do we live this out? And why does it seem so hard?
If I’m being completely honest, I would have to say that it’s because I just don’t want to. (It sounds horrible I know and I’m tempted to delete it and write something that sounds better but I won’t.) I’m tired. I’m drained. I have things to do. I don’t feel like cleaning my house. And because people can be difficult. It’s so much easier to just sit on the couch and read my book or watch TV. But am I missing out?
According to Acts 2, yes, I am. My NIV Bible says, they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. They enjoyed each other’s company and were blessed because of it. This is what I’m missing. The joy that comes from community. From meeting together with other believers and doing Kingdom work together. From learning together, growing together and serving together.
So why, if we’ve been created for community, do we find it so difficult to live out? If we look back at Acts 2 we find a clue: devotion. It says all the believers devoted themselves to the teachings of Christ and to prayer. In order to live well in community and to be joy and find joy in other believers we need to follow the example of Christ in Scripture and love as He loves. We need to learn to see people through His eyes. This requires prayer.
Over and over again in Jesus’ ministry we see Him reaching out to the lost, the broken, the outcast. But He didn’t just heal them, He restored them. He saw them with eyes full of compassion and full of love. He didn’t condemn, but gently opened the eyes of those who couldn’t see, those who didn’t understand, and He offered them life. Abundant life. Eternal life.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs…it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5,7
Sadly, my love doesn’t usually look like this. It’s sometimes selfish, sometimes judgmental and sometimes impatient. I extend it those who are easy to love and withhold it from those who aren’t. But this isn’t how Jesus loves.
Jesus lived in community. Look at His relationship with His disciples. He welcomed them into His circle. He ate with them, taught them, corrected them, and grew them. He knew them intimately and they knew Him intimately too. No walls, masks or facades. Jesus knew their hearts. He knew their motives. He knew their flaws and their weaknesses. And still He loved them.
When we love as God does we see past flaws and imperfections. Past those things that annoy and frustrate. We see a beloved child of God who is broken and in need of salvation. We see a sister or brother in Christ in need of some grace. We see a friend in need of sound teaching, direction and love. And if we stick around long enough, we’ll start to see the image of Christ Himself reflected back. That’s our joy.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into His glorious image.
2 Corinthians 2:18
So let’s get vulnerable. Let’s set aside our masks, step out from behind our walls and let people see us. The real us. Relationship will not happen until we’re willing to see and be seen through the eyes of Christ Jesus. And as we step out of our comfort zones and enter into community with Spiritual mothers, sisters and daughters; with families, singles and widows, we will be stretched, we will be challenged, and we will be changed. But more than that, we will be blessed beyond measure.