One doesn’t have to be married for long to realize the wisdom in a simple, yet painfully accurate, statement. “Happy Wife, Happy Life!” And a man does not have to be married long to realize that no matter how much he makes, how hard he works, or how smart he is, the way to achieve the first is summarized in another simple statement. “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is yours.” Relationships are built on common ground, and while the above statements seem very slanted toward the female in the relationships, the ability and willingness to claim nothing as your own and share everything is what brings about intimacy, trust, joy, and faithfulness. This same principle applies to friendships, family relationships, and almost any non-business relationship that we are engaged in.
So why do so many of us observe this in our personally lives but not in our Christian relationships. Membership in the Church gets regarded as a “paid service”, our fellow members are evaluated, either intentionally or unintentionally, by their “worth” to us and the overall organization, and our tithes and offerings determined by what we are “getting out of it”. To be fair, we can often get the impression that our worth to the Church is based on how much we give, our opinions can be more or less effective based on our length of time or amounts given, and feeling like a “part” of the Church can be hard when others withhold companionship and compassion because we didn’t grow up in the Church (either that church or the Church overall).
Acts 4:32-35 details what should be our example for “Church membership”. Being one in heart and mind, not claiming individual possessions or contributions as their own, and making certain that no one was in need because they distributed everything so that no one suffered. All of this though was a common expression of the grace given to them as believers and they were bold in their faith and action. So what happened? In the simplest of terms, the Church went from a Body to a Building. When Paul wrote to the Churches, his letters were all the believers in that area, not an episcopal letter to the congregations under his care. As time progressed, Church History indicated that there were those who “interpreted” certain theological points, which led to divisions in the Early Church. Those divisions turned into divisions over leadership. Those divisions led to each leader dictating how to keep members obedient to them… and here we are in 2019 and everything seems to be about us, our church, our theology, our money, our people, which turns to me, me, ME.
Reverend Billy Graham had preached a revival once and afterward, a critic claimed he had just set the Church back 200 years. His response was that he was saddened by that because he wanted to set it back 2000 years. There should be no surprise that there is a correlation between the unity of the believers in their prayer, possessions, and therefore, power of preaching the Good News of Christ. What they preached was about Christ, His saving Grace, and the change that they had happen as they sought to be like Him. Juxtapose that with how the current climate of the Christian Church is bent on territory, political favors, and being given honor that is neither promised by Scripture nor deserved when the Church is engaged in self-seeking, counter-Christian behaviors and attitudes. The more we claim the Gospel is about us and benefiting us, the more the world will continue to be repelled by OUR message and reject even those who are centered on Scripture and Spirit filled.
As we seek to get a “faith lift”, perhaps we need to go back to our roots. Forget about progresses made in the interest of growing denominations or individual churches. Forget about who our parents were in our local congregations and communities. Forget claiming that we are “Christian Nation” and how the Church should be the main group governing. Remember that we are called to be separate from the world, that the Bible is meant to be lived and not quoted to support our personal opinions, and remember the chains from which we were set free when we were in sin. Remember that we are called to be servants, the last in line to be given honor, and that the power we yield is not our own, so we should only wield it as instructed. If we are to be in battle against authorities, powers of this dark world, and the forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12), we need to focus on that with the weapons given to us and avoid directing our efforts on those who are victims of them. Our role is to set them free rather than strike them down, liberate rather than leave them enslaved.
Imagine the Church set on fire against sin and darkness without those who have been caught in sin and darkness being set ablaze. Imagine the Church known by its love, compassion, and truth instead of politically charged opinions and power over others. Imagine being a Church that lived such a radically remarkable life of love and grace that the world wanted to be part of it as they did when the Church was known by believers who were one in heart and mind and no one wanted for anything.
Is the World determining my area of service, or does Christ?
Is my faith about what Christ does for me or what Christ does through me?