If you didn’t hear Pastor Roger’s sermon on Sunday, you should listen to it. One thing he talked about was how often we come to church carefully concealing our suffering and sin. Yet, the church is the place we should find respite from pretending – we should find hope and healing. The church God gave us is a beautiful, wondrous thing – a community of people living authentically together, supporting each other physically and emotionally. It’s a gift that is supposed to include other believers who know your sin and still love you, who comfort you in suffering, challenge you to grow, support you in healing. Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want unconditional love that also has healthy boundaries that lead to healing? And where there is this kind of church, there is power through the Spirit.
In Acts we see the church doing two major things – living in authentic community and spreading the Gospel. One of the most well known passages is Acts 2:42-47:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
What did this fellowship and sharing lead to? The rest of Acts, most of it at least, chronicles how the Gospel begins to spread. Crazy things happen. Miraculous healing, teaching, persecution. People follow Peter just so his shadow will fall on them and heal them. They receive visions, escape from prison, get put on trial, and shipwrecked. There’s a lot of action. But before they made this incredible impact on the world, the believers came together.
Aren’t we so much stronger together? Praying for each other, providing for each other, encouraging each other? Don’t we share God’s love freely when we experience it ourselves, often through other people? It’s not that God isn’t enough, it’s that He designed us for community. He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and He created us in His image.
How can we love each other better in the church? Can we ask God to help us speak in love? Resist judgment and respond with grace? Walk alongside someone through their suffering without empty platitudes but instead offer something tangible, like coffee and dinner? Can we diligently pray for and with each other? Can we love each other in a way that helps the world clearly hear the Gospel?
In John 13:34-35 Jesus tells his disciples:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
For years I labeled Christians as hypocrites, but then God used loving, generous, gracious believers to compel me to look more closely at the Gospel message. I had rejected it earlier in my life, not truly understanding it, but I was drawn to this radical love of Christ as I caught glimpses of it in His followers. That is one of my constant prayers now – Lord, let Your love radiate from me; let it eclipse me and draw people to You. Let the miracle of knowing You spread to others.
As we read Acts in the month of February, I pray we have a renewed appreciation for the church and a powerful reminder of what God can do through it.