Last week while I was preaching I felt moved to mention that Introverts and Extroverts evangelize and present the gospel differently. This got me thinking; church is probably hard for introverts. I myself seem to switch between Extrovert and Introvert, and I feel like church can be exhausting at times too. This led me to a question; Why other people!? Have you ever thought church might be easier without all of the quirky folks that make it frustrating, confusing, or even painful sometimes? Well, you're not alone. Today, we're diving deep into a topic that's at the heart of our faith journey – the church as a fellowship of believers.
Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-30)
Now, I want you to imagine something with me. Picture a human body, a symphony of interconnected parts, each with a unique role to play. Our eyes, ears, hands, and feet – they all work together to make us whole. In the same way, the church is like this body, the body of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, the apostle Paul paints a vivid picture of this truth. He reminds us that we are not isolated individuals in this faith journey; we are intricately connected as parts of one body. Just as your hand cannot say to your foot, "I don't need you," we, too, cannot say to one another, "I don't need you." We're all in this together.
And here's the beauty of it – our diversity is our strength. We're not all meant to be the same. We have different gifts, talents, and callings, but together, we form something far more powerful and beautiful than we could ever be on our own.
Now, you might be wondering how this relates to our theme today – the church as a fellowship of believers. It's in this interconnectedness, in our unity amid diversity, that God's will is most clearly revealed and discerned. It's when we lean on each other, when we celebrate our differences, that we truly experience the fullness of Christ's body.
Moreover, in Galatians 3:28, we're reminded that in this body, distinctions of race, class, and gender are to be of no advantage or disadvantage. This is a radical vision of a church that knows no prejudice; a multiethnic, classless, gender-equal community. It's a vision that challenges the norms of the world and calls us to be something greater, something more like Christ.
So, as we move forward on this journey, remember this: we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. We are part of the body of Christ, a diverse and unified community where God's will shines brightly. It's a vision worth pursuing, and it starts with embracing our role in this beautiful symphony of faith.
The Challenge of Community
Now that we've laid the foundation, let's get real for a moment. Being a part of this fellowship of believers isn't always a walk in the park. It's more like a hike up a rugged mountain trail, full of twists, turns, and uphill battles.
You know, in my own journey, I've stumbled forward more times than I can count. There were moments of poor discernment, where I found myself blindly navigating the path ahead. And yes, I must admit, there were times when I carried the baggage of sexism from my earlier days following sensational, polarizing preachers.
So, what makes it so hard to walk together? The very nature of community: It's the clash of different personalities, the collision of diverse perspectives, and the challenge of living out our faith in the midst of it all. The destructive impact of radical figureheads splitting the church hasn't helped either, I have to say.
But here's the beautiful paradox – God has equipped us for these difficulties. In 1 Peter 4:8-11, we're called to love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. It's not about avoiding conflicts or pretending they don't exist; it's about navigating them with grace and love.
Living this out in earnest doesn't make life together easier; it makes it harder. It's a call to give, give, and give some more. And you might be thinking, "Doesn't Peter know about boundaries?" Well, hang tight; we'll get to that.
Remember, we're all on this journey together, and it's the bumps along the way that shape us, refine us, and ultimately bring us closer to the heart of God. So, as we continue, let's explore why God gave us each other, even when it often requires us to protect ourselves from one another.
Love That Covers Sin
Now, let's dive into a profound truth – the idea that love covers a multitude of sins. But hold on, before you jump to conclusions, let's unpack this a bit.
You see, many of us might read this and think, "My love will cover your sins when you do something I don't like." But that's not quite it. Love covering sin is about something deeper, something more transformative.
Miroslav Volf, a brilliant theologian, once said, "I'm most vulnerable to hurting others when I'm protecting someone else." Let that sink in for a moment. Our instinct to protect ourselves and others often leads to unintended harm to perpetrators. It's a cycle we need to break.
"I'm most vulnerable to hurting others when I'm protecting someone else."
Forgiveness often flounders because we exclude the "enemy" from the community of humans, even as we exclude ourselves from the community of sinners. But guess what? We're all sinners, every last one of us.
So, what about our own sins? What about those moments when we're judgmental, when we're downright horrible, and when kindness seems miles away? Well, that's where Peter's call to love comes into play.
You see, Peter compels us to love not because we're perfect, not because we have it all together, but precisely because we don't. Without love, we'd be living out of our sin, constantly trying to protect ourselves and those we hold dear. But love, true love, covers our sin, our lack of forgiveness, our lack of empathy, and our lack of patience.
Think about Noah for a moment. In Genesis 9:20-27, we see a powerful example of love covering sin. Shem and Japheth literally covered their father, Noah, in his moment of vulnerability. In doing so, they covered not only his sin but also their brother's sinning. It's a powerful illustration of what love can do within the family of believers.
But I hear you. You might be saying, "That's all well and good, but I'm still terrified of the people around me." And you know what? You're not alone in feeling that way. The promise that love covers a multitude of sins doesn't mean you won't be sinned against; it means that it will cover over what would otherwise be your sinful response.
But let's be crystal clear here – this doesn't mean you should subject yourself to abusive behavior. You were not made to be harmed, and boundaries are essential. However, the call to love calls us into a deeper relationship with one another. It's a call to see beyond the surface, to see the imago Dei, the image of God, in every person we encounter. This does not mean we are simply ok with them treating us badly, but that even as we pursue a different, healthy, and dare I say Godly way of relating to one another, we do so with a spirit of love and care.
So, how do we love one another in the midst of it all? Well, let's move on to that in our next section.
The Call to Love One Another
Now that we've touched on the power of love in covering sin, let's dig deeper into the practical aspects of loving one another within the fellowship of believers.
First, let's talk about hospitality. In the early church, hospitality to travelers was a common practice. It meant welcoming strangers into your home, offering them a meal, and providing a place to stay. Today, our context might look a bit different. We may not always have travelers knocking on our doors, but the essence of hospitality remains. It's about opening up our lives to others, making space for newcomers, both in our homes and in our hearts.
You see, this call to hospitality goes beyond mere politeness. It's about creating a safe and welcoming environment where people can experience the love of Christ. It's about breaking bread together, sharing stories, and forging connections that transcend the surface.
But hospitality isn't the only way we can love one another within the church community. It goes beyond providing a meal or a place to stay. It extends to our everyday interactions.
Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Now, when you hear "speaking," don't limit it to preaching from a pulpit. It's about using your words, whether through songwriting, mediating arguments, writing articles, or simply having a heartfelt conversation with someone in a way that makes them feel valued and welcome.
And if you have the gift of helping others, don't hold back. Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Helping doesn't have to be a chore; it can be a joyful and enthusiastic expression of love. It's about asking, "How can I be helpful today?" and then diving in with all your heart.
Perhaps you're someone who enjoys organizing things. Well, you're in luck because that's a gift too. Organizing can be a powerful form of helping. It's about creating order out of chaos, making things run smoothly, and ensuring that everyone's needs are met. So, embrace your love for organizing and put it to good use within the body of Christ.
Now, here's the beautiful part. When we love one another in these ways, when we step out of our comfort zones and extend our gifts and abilities to serve, something incredible happens. Everything we do brings glory to God through Jesus Christ. It's like a beautiful offering of worship, where all the glory and power belong to Him forever and ever.
So, my friends, as we navigate the complexities of community, as we journey through the ups and downs of fellowship, let's remember this truth. When we choose love over self-protection, when we extend grace instead of retribution, when we love without seeking selfish gain, it brings glory to God. It's through these moments that God is made known to the world around us.