There's a lot of talk these days about community. Young adults want authentic relationships. Small groups are touted as the means to better community. But two or three strained group meetings later, no one feels closer than when they started, and all that community talk is empty. Unless something bad happens. If someone gets sick, loses a job, or has a rocky marriage, then you find out if your group is really a community.
In Acts 2:42-47, after Pentecost the believers worshiped joyfully and were formed by warm and generous acts of fellowship. They were friends who were once strangers from all over the region, brought together by the joy of their salvation in Jesus Christ.
But as persecution began and the believers were forced from Jerusalem, they were further united. The love they experienced as they aided one another in times of crisis forged bonds that will last for eternity.
Faith is a mystical thing, and Christianity is often touted as "just between me and God," but Jesus links vertical responsibility to horizontal relationships—just as he lived.
In John 13:35, Jesus tells us that sacrificial love is to be the distinguishing mark of his followers. In community with other believers, we live out the deepest paradox of Scripture: that to live, we must die. The church community cost Christ his life, and in one way or another, it will cost ours (Luke 9:23-24).
Q: Have you even been part of a group that endured a difficult period, when hardship brought people together? If so, what made that a bonding rather than a dividing experience?
Q: Why does God choose to build community through suffering and sacrifice? Why wouldn't the same ends be achieved through happy events?
Make a Change: Write down at least three steps you can take to improve your vertical relationship with God by improving your horizontal relationships with those in your community.