For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
From 120 Christ-followers to 3,120 in ONE DAY! That's what happened on that first Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus was crucified. The motley crew of multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic Jewish men and women had to then discover a way to move forward as a community, knowing Messiah was alive. Luke described their values: And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42) The word "fellowship" in this verse is practical, not theological; it is koinonia, meaning to share. Simple idea, right? What's mine is yours, let's share. They changed their world with amazing community, giving and receiving as a lifestyle as they shared awesome news: Jesus is Alive!
The church planter Paul later instructed Gentile churches in Galatia via the passage above: a caution about "biting and devouring" with a reminder that all the law is fulfilled when we serve and love one another. We are free -- but free to serve in love.
Flash back to a synagogue in Israel, 2-3 years earlier. Jesus entered, noting suspicious eyes of religious leaders [it's Sabbath, don't do anything edgy]. Jesus not only called a man forward with a disability, he asked him to expose it in front of all. "Come here... stretch out your hand," he said to the man. Can you imagine having your worst issue, your most vulnerable handicap exposed in front of people? Jesus did it in order to heal the hand: that unnamed man left changed for the remainder of his life. I remind myself that when God exposes a dark or difficult thing in my life, He does it to heal, to deliver, not to embarrass or judge.
The apostle James wrote in his wisdom-permeated letter: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. Consider that genuine community is risky. It involves exposing my sins, my weakness, habits, hurts, hangups and heartaches...to trusted friends in Christ...so they can pray for me to be healed. We often pretend all is well when we gather as Christians. I am convinced this nauseates God. All is seldom well. We would do well to remove our masks, understand no one has "arrived" and engage in real yet risky community.
Church can be family or 7-11. In family they know me and I know them, as bonded ones. In 7-11 it's about convenience; I dip in when necessary, say as little as possible, and leave -- transact and adios til the next time I need you.
Genuine community is risky, but worth it. I'm plugged in, warts and all, experiencing both sides of "confess your sins." These days I believe we won't survive, or thrive, til we return to Acts 2 living. Enjoying, not enduring community, Perry Floyd