by Sarah Knapp Northside church of Christ , Conway AR
What does it look like in the New Testament to be close to each other as Christians? Many of the passages we will look at are in the context of a local church, but some of Paul’s writings are speaking of closeness with Christians in other places, too. Acts 2:42-47
Types of interactions: Apostles teaching, vs. 42 Fellowship, vs. 42 Breaking of bread, vs. 42
Prayer, vs. 42 Together and had all things in common, vs. 44 Selling property and possessions and sharing, as needed, vs. 45 Meeting in the temple, vs. 46 Breaking bread from house to house, vs. 46
Received food with glad and generous hearts, vs. 46 Praising God and having favor with people, vs. 47
Notice the spirit these activities are done with dailywith joy and generous hearts!! This isn’t just a duty to perform; it flows from a love of God and our brethren. They were together often, growing in the Lord and closer to one another through so many types of interactions. This sounds very different than mostly interactions based on 2-3 church services per week.
Are we as close or closer to our spiritual family compared to our physical families? Matt. 12:46-50 Jesus' mother and brothers were wanting to speak with him, but He said, "Behold My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."
This implies to me a greater closeness with spiritual family than even physical family. How many times have we experienced this type of closeness with brethren? Are we making sure to emphasize spiritual family to this degree to help create this closeness? This also implies to me a level of responsibility and commitment to each other that is a similar level as we should have for our physical families. Phil 2.17
Jn. 15:12-13 “ Are we living out this level of love for each other as brethren? Are we willing to be "poured out" for brethren to really help each other go to heaven? Do we often settle into a norm of a lower level of love for brethren than what the Bible describes in these and so many other passages?
I've been thinking lately about how I figure that generally speaking, our time period in history and being fairly well off here in America, affords us MUCH more "free" time to meet with other Christians than most people in most other time periods in history or even today in many other poorer countries. I figure that it's actually easier in general for us to have the capability to spend more time with our brethren because we aren't needing to spend so many hours a day just to scrape together our daily food. Way beyond that, we generally have time for luxuries, comforts, and leisure activities. Generally speaking, if we are very careful with time management, shouldn't we be able to have more time to spend with brethren? How high of a priority should it be to us? Geoff, my husband, has pulled together several illustrations to help us evaluate our function as a family and as a body, and they've helped me think harder about what it should really look like to function as a family and the body of Christ, particularly within our local churches.
Are we a bunch of severed body parts, that aren't working together or caring for each other? Or do we have people that feel like they are an appendix, and no one would really care if they were cut out of the body? I have had others express to me how hurt they are to be left out, and feel excluded, and uncared for. Are we a part of this?!! 1 Cor chapter 12. We've visited a church where the members purposefully live very close to each other (within a mile) and stay in small groups (they swarm when they grow larger) to be able to be close and honor their commitment to care deeply and equally to each member and really help each other go to heaven. I'd love to hear your solutions to help promote closeness equally within local churches where singles, elderly, and many others aren't left out and feel like an appendix no one would miss.
I heard a true story about a brother who was part of an actual gang and when he became a Christian felt so let down by the distance between Christians compared to the gang he'd been a part of. In the gang, they would literally have each others' backs and risk their lives for each other, and in the church he started with, they didn't even know where Brother so and so lived, only saw him at church, and really knew very little about him.
If we are close like a family, it would be very painful when fellowship would be taken away in a case where withdrawal is needed. But, if there is very little in the way of closeness, how would withdrawal be effective?
If a physical family isn’t close, does that affect things? How? If a spiritual family isn’t close, how does it impact the church? If we want to be close as a spiritual family, we need to prioritize time with each other, over other activities.