Community = Hard Work But...
"The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members." Coretta Scott King
I love the descriptions of the Christian community in Acts 2-5. Diverse ethnically, on fire for the risen Jesus, willing to share their stuff with each other, focused on Bible study, prayer, eating together and seeing God move consistently in their midst. Signs and wonders happened. A city was impacted by that transformed community.
There is hope for our city / state / nation to be similarly impacted -- but not as we are "doing church" presently. Do you see how powerless we have become, compared to that early group of Christ-followers? Many American congregations actually repel people from the greatest news ever. Lots of reasons why, but I want to focus on the idea Ms. King expressed above -- we are a great community when we express great compassion in our actions.
"Jesus had compassion" on them...a phrase used 9 times in the gospels. Each time the compassion of God results in a healing, a demon expulsion, a raising from the dead, a massive feeding. Compassion released God's power in a human being. The word in Greek comes from the word for bowels or guts; the idea was that you felt something deep in your gut, not your heart. The prodigal's father experienced this: So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him Luke 15:20. Rather than judge the guilty knucklehead of a wayward son, that father responded by moving toward his filthy boy to hug and kiss him. That is what compassion looks like.
Compassion's kissing cousin, mercy, is also frequently expressed in the gospels, mostly from people to God -- "have mercy on me" is found 8 times in the gospels. Greek eeleios paints the picture, "help me please!" The tax collector's prayer in Luke 18 expresses it best: But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner" Luke 18:13.
The God-given life that flows in our hearts by the Holy Spirit's presence is merciful, compassionate to people, no matter their flaws, poor choices, or sins. My friends in Celebrate Recovery remind me that all of us have hurts, hangups, heartaches and habits. Thank God he had mercy on me when I deserved judgment. Praise Jesus for his compassion poured into my rotten heart, resulting in a transformed human. I've heard him whisper to me in my most judgmental, caustic moments: "Give him the same mercy I gave you. Don't hold back just because she doesn't deserve it. Neither did you."
Let's form genuine community. It's hard work, because people are in it. It is also immensely attractive. It reminds people of good news and the Savior who brung it.
Looking for tax collectors, Perry Floyd