Friday, June 18, 2010

Growing Together

Growing Together
“And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, ‘The will of the Lord be done!” (Acts 21:14)

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is community. For the Christian community, desiring to meet in the Name of Christ is one of the clearest signs of the Holy Spirit at work. In a community, we gather ourselves under the lordship of Jesus. We demonstrate our faith in God through good works. We encourage one another toward one Hope in Christ. We remember one another with love, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving with one another. It is one thing to enjoy one another’s company during good and happy times. It is another to struggle together when the tides and times are not in our favour. What can a group or a Christian community do when they face difficult moments, especially in their relationships. Let me suggest 5 insights to learn from the early Church community. I have used the word OASIS as an acronym to guide these thoughts.

The Background
Paul has been called to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, to be an ‘apostle to the Gentiles’ (Rom 11:13). So strong is this calling that Paul is prepared to risk everything in order to fulfill it. Agabus who was at Caesarea, a city on the coast of Palestine, that is south of Mount Carmel. Dramatically, Agabus knows about how Paul will be tortured if he continues his perilous mission trip. Using ropes to tie himself, Agabus demonstrates how Paul will be arrested and caught by the Jews in Jerusalem. Upon hearing this, the whole community try to prevent Paul from making his fateful trip by trying to dissuade Paul from proceeding. For Paul, obedience is more important than personal safety. He affirms: “The will of the Lord be done!”

A) OPENNESS: Being Open
Paul and this community know each other well. So well, that they are open to sharing their deepest thoughts and nervousness. They know that dangers await Paul if he proceeds. They tell Paul openly. In reply, Paul honestly shares his calling and his determination with the group. This is a remarkable display of open communication and brotherly love. Both care for each other, even though they do not necessarily agree on the trip. The rest of them practically ‘begs’ Paul not to go (Acts 21:12).

Learning: There is a time to openly share our thoughts and concern.

B) ACCEPTANCE: Being Accepting of One Another
When the community heard Paul’s determination, they paused and accepted his decision.

Learning: Remember that there is a time for everything. When we cannot get complete agreement, the next step is acceptance. A Christian community is not based on full agreement but full acceptance.

C) SUPPORT: Being Supportive
The community ‘fell silent’ when they realize they cannot persuade Paul from doing otherwise. They decide to support him instead of continuing to argue with him.

Learning: It is one thing to be accepting one another. It is another to support others even when we fail to see the other person’s point of view. Love is not making the other person to comply with our wishes. It is learning to support him or her after the decision has been made.

D) IN: Being United IN Christ
Whatever we do, we do it IN the Name of Christ. The community is a praying community. They pray for each other (Acts 21:15). They interact among themselves with prayer.

Learning: There is always time to pray and to support one another regardless of whether they agree with us. It is always time to be united in the Name and Purpose of Christ.

E) SOLIDARITY: Being Focused on God’s Will
The remarkable thing about the community of God is that personal opinions must yield to the opinion of God, commonly known as God’s will. Sometimes, we find it difficult to get along when we fail to get agreement. This is not what a Christian community is all about. We know we are a ‘Christian’ community when our final decision is always: “The will of the Lord be done.”

Learning: We may not understand God’s will exactly now. Yet, “God’s will” trumps any of our individual ideas and plans. After all has been said, arguments made both for and against, it is time to come together in unity. For it is not our personal decisions that unite but the recognition we are all under God.

Concluding Thoughts
These are 5 marks of a growing community in Christ. They are open to each other. They accept one another’s strengths and weaknesses. They support each other’s decisions. Whatever they do, they do in Christ. Even when there is no complete agreement, all are united in their togetherness and solidarity in Christ.

May these thoughts guide you.


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