"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Week 32: Share With God's People

"Share with God's people in need. Practice hospitality." ~ Romans 12:13

Back in April and May, I spent several weeks focusing on "one another" commands: encourage one another, serve one another, offer hospitality to one another, and greet one another with a holy kiss. These commands show us the way to live out the great command to love one another. They are specific, practical instructions about how we Christians are to live together.

One thing I'll take away from The James 1:22 Project is a stronger than ever conviction that God calls Christians to have deep affection for one another and to be in deep fellowship. You can't be a Christian all by yourself. Being actively involved in a community of believers is not merely beneficial to Christians; it's absolutely essential. As Christians, we're called to share with one another everything God has given to us: words of encouragement, talents and abilities, time, and affection. The call to care for one another and share with one another extends to our physical resources, including, as we see in Romans 12:13, our homes and our money.

The Book of Acts gives us a picture of what Romans 12:13 looked like in practice in the first century church:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47.

Following the example of the early church in 21st century urban/suburban America is a huge challenge. The truth is that, in our church (CityLights) we're not physically "all together"---not even close. My family lives 37 miles east of the church, and other families live almost as far away to the north, west and south. As a result, authentic Christian fellowship is a huge challenge. Putting Romans 12:13 into practice takes planning and effort. For my family, it happens mostly (although not exclusively) in the context of small group life. Every Thursday evening our little band of Jesus followers (regular people with jobs and kids and other commitments) comes together to study God's word, to pray and to fellowship. It's made all the difference for Christina and me, and I'm so thankful for our dear friends in small group.

When Josie was born, we saw a great example of Romans 12:13 in practice. People from CityLights brought us meals for a month! A month of meals! And, keep in mind, we're a smallish church---only about 150 people on Sundays. Also bear in mind that we live about 45 minutes from the church. Some folks were driving over an hour to bring us a meal, and a lot of people did that twice. By the way, the food was excellent. The meals not only filled a need for us, but also made us feel loved. They made us feel, more than ever, a part of CityLights. This last week was about giving a little back to a couple families in the church---not out of a sense of indebtedness, but just because that's what Christians do.