Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Spirit of Unity

Reading: Romans 15: 4-7

Verse 4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that… we might have hope”.

In the early church in Rome they were struggling to all be the church. One dominant group, the Jewish Christians, were clinging to the Torah and other writings and teachings of the Jewish faith. The “newer” believers, who were called “Gentiles”, did not have this long history with God. Their entrance to the faith was based upon believing that Jesus was the Messiah and then being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit (not necessarily in this order for the last two). The central issue in this early church came down to how much of the Hebrew scriptures… were essential to being a Christian. The answer to this question has played itself out for two thousand years.

The people in the church in Rome basically fell into three groups. One group wanted to use all of the Jewish scriptures… for “membership” in the church. One group did not want to use any of these as benchmarks for membership. In the middle was a group that felt some was useful and some was not essential. Paul, in general, fell into this middle group. This was quite a change for Paul. Up until pretty recently, Paul was known as Saul. As Saul he was a Pharisee – an uber follower of all the laws and Jewish teachings from the scriptures. In verse four we read Paul’s words to the church. Here we read, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that… we might have hope”. We can learn from all of the Hebrew scriptures… But that does not necessarily mean following every single law and writing. And it does not mean that we willy-nilly pick what we like and do not like. With endurance and with encouragement from the entirety of scripture, we find our way forward. This has been the Jewish practice for thousands of years. They learned that the black letters do not always tell us how to interpret and apply something written to another time or context. So they dig down deep and find the intent or the purpose or the meaning of the law… To say “we’ve always done it this way” and to insist that’s the only option is sometimes harmful and sometimes limits the fruit produced for the glory of God. But that is what the Jewish Christians were saying. They wanted the Gentiles to first become good Jews – follow all of the law, do things as we have always done them. The early church did find the way forward. A spirit of unity prevailed and led them to move forward, accepting one another. God was glorified, the church grew, Christ was taught and followed. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Dear God, as it was, so it remains. It is not always easy being the church. Made up of fallible human beings, we still struggle with what it means to simply love you and to love one another as Jesus Christ loved us. Lead and guide us, as you did the early church, to be one in you. Amen.

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The Caring Community

The goal of a church is to be a caring and loving community.  As the body of Christ, we are called to do what we can for one another and to be there in times of need.  In the days just after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the church was a small family.  There was a great sense of unity; the well-being of all was a central focus.  The sense of caring extended to giving to those in need, even selling land or houses to have the money to care for the community.

As a church body we find unity in Christ.  It is through His love for us that we are able to love one another.  As we seek to love neighbor as self we come to see others as more alike us than different from us.  At times one gives away care and at other times one receives care.  Relationships are developed and Christian love flourishes.

The example of the early church is still our model today.  No church is perfect but all should be striving to meet the Biblical example we have here in Acts 4.  God blesses us with what we have so that we can be that caring, loving community that every church is called to be.  In time the tithe came to replace the selling of land and houses.  But we cannot allow the tithe to become the means by which individuals offer care in the faith community.  Individual, personal relationships are still the core.

The basis of all churches and its strength is still found in the individual members.  What the people in the pews know about each other and their needs will always far exceed what the pastor and staff could ever know.  At times the staff certainly has a role in caring for the body, but the care and love are most complete when all of the parts of the body of Christ are caring for all of the other members of the body.  In your church, what is your role?  How are you a part of caring for the rest of the community of faith?

Scripture reference: Acts 4: 32-35