I have a good many friends whom I love and respect -and in several areas DEEPLY disagree with across spiritual, political and other dimensions. I say this because I wish for us to consider core implications of what early Christians did in the face of sometimes life-threatening or massively divisive attitudes about how to “be” a true lover of God and people.
Have any of us been hurt by others? Welcome to real life in the real world and indeed, sometimes authentic (yes!) marriage, family, social club, church, choir, indy band, sports team or motorcycle club…
So this is my response to several issues that I am convinced are core to loving our God and our neighbor as Jesus commanded. It’s about maturity, balance and indeed correction for a number of my longtime as well as newer friends who are FULLY CONVINCED they are on solid ground. In my view, many of us are at best out of balance if not dead wrong in our personal convictions and choices.
Some beat a very hard drum and make judgments on others who do not share our particular beat.
I often ask myself (and am convinced the Holy Spirit asks me) if I love my enemies as Jesus commands? You know, the really nasty, the “not like US”, the neighbor from hell, the “other”, those who hold and are entrenched in beliefs and practices that in my view fully counter what Jesus said, lived and how He loves.
Fact is, if you are truly “walking in the Spirit” you may fully disagree with people, even to the point of hating (Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Letter of Jude vs. 22,23) Note he begins and ends with “mercy” -also note -not- hating the person as such.
We know that God loves full-on sinners, nasties, idiots and jerks because He “so loved the world that He gave” Jesus FOR ALL OF US.
I know, I know, some will say Jesus only died for those who will be saved… so He doesn’t yet LOVE them? Too much scripture answers that, I won’t do so here.
If every single day God patiently, graciously loves you and I (perfectly, always, all people) REGARDLESS of hating our sins… both “church” Christians and those who never “do” church in a traditional way, why don’t we?
Often our preferences out-weigh our wisdom and willingness to die to self when it comes to even being around “THOSE KIND OF PEOPLE”. Because affirmation to our selves and our preferences are more important to us (and sure, they may think the very same from their end of the spectrum). Ahhh but WE have the “deeper truth”, the “higher light”. Always. WE have received THE SPIRIT and ALL HE DESIRES. Not.
Not not not no way folks… which is why we NEED one another, which is why we NEED to listen, hear, read, consider, weigh, rightly judge (discern) in the light of The Bible and larger church, other local churches and not “by private interpretation” nor simply amongst groupies who think like us.
I am convinced the twin-headed monster of fear and hate figure in deeply here. “I have been horribly mis-treated and ain’t gonna TAKE IT NO MORE and must defend myself or they’ll get me again” on the one end and on the other, “God Himself is disgusted with those people and I have every right to vent about their sick, less-than-my-way-of-doing-things nonsense!”
So to those who claim to follow Jesus Christ:
“Love is patient, love is kind”. ‘Eh? Are we?
God loves all sinners (which includes every one of us) and is compassionate to each of us EVERY SINGLE DAY, those in and out of whatever you care to refer to as a “right” church or any other group of people.
Ok, to the two verses that sparked this blog and a few issues in relation to them:
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart
42 And they steadfastly persevered, devoting themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles, to the breaking of bread [including the Lord’s Supper] and prayers.
46 And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord’s Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts
42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart
They CONTINUED. SO easy to just separate, split, bunker in, wall-off, talk Over others and eventually demonize them.
They were CONSTANT in what they did and it was all relational at core. So what did they do?
Their core focuses are right in the text:
APOSTLE’S TEACHING -yep, the Holy Spirit speaks to and through all -yet they heard teachers teaching who had walked with Jesus and were repeating how He loved/loves via what He said and did. So can all of us, but certainly there are plenty of folks who can bring spiritual truth and beneficial info. via The Bible, their own relationship with God and via years of experience that we just do not have as of yet. Humility and relationships with those UNLIKE US is crucial to spiritual growth.
FELLOWSHIP. This ain’t “you’re like me so I like you and we’ll hang out together… not like THOSE people over there” rubbish. That’s child stuff and if you only play that card regardless of your age, subculture or preferences I guarantee spiritual malnourishment and likely error over time. Fellowship doesn’t simply mean we all dig the same music, color and ice cream.
EATING TOGETHER. Simply doing what you have to do to survive (eat food) and doing it together will include talk. It can be spiritually up-building and closer-to-Jesus stuff or just negative rants. We all need to vent, but what uplifts and what is a drip-drip-drip of “THEY are ROTTEN or the WAY they DO it is DISGUSTING and must be DESTROYED” chatter is likely swimming in muck more than truly edifying anyone at table. The Lord’s Supper means we (you and I) repent and forgive others as well as ask forgiveness when we truly must, not mere food and drink. Hmmm… what sort of walk do we really have with Him and others? Fellowship ‘eh?
PRAYER. Not only individual (needed!) but shared prayers. Confessing weakness, temptation, sin. Commonly praying w. one another about deep needs, giving thanks, praising, worshiping the Lord in unity. What a concept!
DAILY. Wow. Not an hour or two per week or simply Sunday morning or on the weekend. Daily WHAT?? Read on please:
IN ONE ACCORD. Wow-wow. Same attitude (love, grace, meeting needs), same Spirit (Holy, not merely human), unity -what the Spirit works among those sheep who “hear My voice and they follow Me” as Jesus said in the Book of John.
IN THE TEMPLE. Another wow. Among the (other) Jewish people, many who considered these Christ-followers THE Cult, The newest Error-filled rubbish in their neighborhood, this is where the new Christians meet -wait for it- daily. Uhhh. What do you do with that regarding your own distaste for people, perhaps even other Christ-followers in your area? They did not stop placing themselves among others who most certainly would disagree with them on several intense levels.
Again, EATING and FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE. House churches, home fellowships, cell groups, small groups hanging out over food, fellowship, teaching and relating as friends rather than in organizational structure alone, this was a -daily- occurence as was gathering in the Jewish Temple. Yes. Notice the “both-and” here.
Lastly, not only with GLADNESS but also SINCERITY OF HEART (singleness, generosity). No feeding on nor feeding others guile, bad attitudes, political pettiness nor jockeying for position. Genuine, authentic, real, not posing as loving disciples of Jesus but truly sharing His love with others in the power of God the Holy Spirit. Not all about “comfort” among “birds of a feather” nor culture, organized nor dis-organized forms… but by “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” which has nearly nothing to do with same-same cultural perspectives or tastes.
The rest of the text in context is amazing in its scope as to the things the Lord did among them apparently with some regularity.
Perhaps the next time you are tempted to simply cut yourself off (or other’s off) from a credible witness of what a follower of Jesus ought to be like, share and live out daily, you might remember some of the amazing truths of how the Holy Spirit DOES work through those who indeed love God and neighbors -even through us towards those we don’t want as neighbors.
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn