I go to church on weekends, a small group on Wednesdays, and to Bridges on Thursdays, and I see a bunch of people I know and love and that like and enjoy each other. To be a part of a healthy community is such a beautiful thing.
Then, I foolishly turn on the radio or the TV and learn that I must be in a bubble, because everyone out there hates each other. Of course, I am exaggerating, but that's how it feels. In our small-group study on Wednesdays in Loomis, which you are welcome to join by-the-way, we are going through Acts. It seems to me that with the presence of the Holy Spirit also came a great sense of unity, acceptance, service, and generosity, AND that that community grew because it was so different. That community stood out because the "all about me" attitude was gone. Now, people can share so much in common, really enjoy each other's company, have very similar values, but if you voted for that other candidate, that's it, the relationship is over. Really? Yep, forget all that other stuff we like about each other. We tend to put so much emphasis on the areas we disagree with, rather that accepting each other, seeking common ground, and enjoying a healthy relationship.
To build community, think about this if you will...
In what ways are people actually more similar than different?
Let's look at Acts 2:42-47 (GW):
42 The disciples were devoted to the teachings of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 A feeling of fear came over everyone as many amazing things and miraculous signs happened through the apostles. 44 All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other. 45 From time to time, they sold their property and other possessions and distributed the money to anyone who needed it. 46 The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other's homes and shared their food. 47 At the same time, they praised God and had the good will of all the people. Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group.
Also look at Acts 4:32-35 (NIV):
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
You see, all this unity created a great buzz that people were anxious to be a part of. It was awesome! People loved this new kind of community. The opposition came not because of the way people loved and served each other and not because people were being generous with each other, but because the establishment leader's power was threatened by this growing group. Nobody minded that the people were happy, excited, passionate, etc. The only threat was loss of power over the people.
Ok, now look at Acts 5:33-42 (NIV):
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." 40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
In closing, if, as Christians, what we do and how we do it is truly out of love for God and others AND we are enabled by the Holy Spirit, what in the world should stop us? How can we work through things that separate and divide us from others to develop the kind of relationships and community we all long for?
It's definitely something to think about.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Email me and let me know how you interacted with these passages at email@example.com.
Pastor Michael Baggett
Faith-based Singles' Community
If you are a single adult looking for a safe faith community, be sure to check out Bridges at BridgesSacramento.com. Bridges is a weekly gathering in a casual, friendly environment that encourages single adults to develop great friendships and healthy relationships. We meet Thursday nights from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at Life Community Church in Roseville, CA. All are welcome. Click HERE for more information and other Bridges events.