Saturday, October 22, 2005

Part 6 -- And the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world

How many of us have been told by parents, teachers or others in authority that “actions speak louder than words”? Ron Sider in The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience makes this point in a stark way: Why is the divorce rate higher in the evangelical churches than in other churches? What kind of a message are we sending when our public behavior is so much at odds with what we profess on Sunday?

Why are our churches in conflict? Why do opposing groups in the PC(USA) publicly ridicule not only different opninions, but the people holding such opinions? If we are ambassadors of Christ; if our witness to others consists of how we behave toward each other; are we effectively exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven?

What did the early church do that was so compelling to those who saw them in action?

Ac 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – NIV

What was it they had that others did not? Perhaps we need to look at the theme which pervaded Jesus’ ministry and was a major part of the ministry of his followers:

1Jn 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

1Jn 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

1Jn 3:21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. –NIV

If we dealt with one another in love and dealt with the world in love, the world would have a far better idea of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. And, as it was during the early years of the Christian Church, seeing such a loving, caring community can be powerful evangelism.

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