Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern
what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
~ Romans 12:2 ~
And Jesus answered them,
“See that no one leads you astray.”
~ Matthew 24:4 ~
In Biblical times, Jesus influenced and radically transformed the way His followers conducted their lives. He created the climate and set the temperature. He dictated parameters and priorities. He instigated a revolutionary way of thinking and being. Nothing was the same after He showed up. He was counter-culture, counter-religion… He flipped so many things right-side-up; things nobody realized needed flipping.
We know through the letters the Apostles wrote to the early Church that there were significant challenges to “doing life.” Not surprising considering the radical nature of Jesus’ philosophy of living. They were setting precedent the whole way along, allowing God to define for them something that had never existed before. They stumbled along, getting things very right at times and not so right at other times. They were living contrary to every cultural and religious system in place. We in the West cannot imagine it, not even a little.
The early Church didn’t have the luxury of cutting ties and opening up a new church down the street when they ran into disputes within their ranks. With few exceptions, they kept doing life together. They kept loving one another. They sought counsel from trusted teachers who could help them sort through discrepancies.
Converted Jews had a ton of tradition that continued to be part of life, but imagine: Gentiles started showing up, and sects started melding, and social classes started mixing… imagine the kinds of interpersonal issues that naturally rose up. These people had NEVER done life together and suddenly, they were brothers and sisters, bound in Jesus. They were now family, pooling every talent and possession, and doling it out so that none of them had need of anything. The reallocation of resources was comprehensive and all-encompassing. They crossed every kind of boundary there was in this new “family.”
Further, they were dealing with life and death matters constantly as they helped the sick and needy in their communities, and as they faced the very real threat of persecution. There was no option but to press into the hard things. That’s what it meant to be Family. They could not afford to divide. They had to remain bound by their common resolve to live their lives for Jesus because they would not survive otherwise, nor would they be able to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel and making disciples.”
In modern times, Western Christians opt to segregate for more reasons than we can count. We “celebrate diversity” until it infringes on our ability to practice our beliefs as we want to. We know little of what it’s like to have to press into hard places and work through delicate matters of dispute. Generally speaking, we are comfortable drawing away from one another and finding a congregation that does not challenge our peripheral beliefs, those things we might categorize as preferences. This mind-set is entirely opposite the mindset of the early church. More than reflecting the revolutionary nature of Jesus, we look like a derivative of modern culture. Our priorities and systems of operation reveal as much.
Imagine then, with our “house” in such disarray, our challenge to engage in meaningful discussions with those outside our borders, whose beliefs are counter to those we hold, not to mention those within our borders who espouse varying beliefs about sensitive topics.
How would you describe today’s Western Church? What and/or who influences us? Whose set of values do we reflect in our church life? How would you assess our willingness and/or ability to problem solve within our borders? How would you describe our ability to engage in “hot topic” issues within our American culture that are counter to God’s design for living?
I guess I’m curious as to what you have to say about whether or not we are functioning as a healthy Family, reflective of the early Church, who was so clearly and thoroughly influenced by Jesus. Thoughts?
I Corinthians 6:1-3
1 Peter 1:13-22
1 Peter 2:9-10