Pentecost 2023: The Characteristics of Christian Community

Pentecost 2023: The Characteristics of Christian Community

Pentecost 2023: The Characteristics of Christian Community

Pentecost invites us to consider how we relate to one another.

On Pentecost, we celebrate the birth of the family we call the church. Like any family, it can grow dysfunctional. That’s why the New Testament writers offered so much advice to Christian communities about taking personal responsibility to bring out the best in each other.

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to a concept called “One Anothering.” We compared the church to honey bees, which survive brutal winters by forming into something of a vibrating ball, taking turns moving from the outside to the inside of the ball to keep each other warm. As individuals outside of the hive, their survival chances are nil, but in the ball, they thrive. That’s the power of community and how churches are supposed to function.

Today we will dive into what the New Testament says about how we should treat each other. If we practice treating each other well in the church community, it carries over and becomes automatic out there. We practice it in church because not everyone out there is going to be like the nice lady at church who hands you a donut.

The kind of community we form is attractive to outsiders.

A few weeks ago, I was blown away by the effect it had on me when I looked at all of the passages in the New Testament that use the phrase “one another.”

In a few moments, we will review many of these verses and discover that church is more than a collection of individuals who worship in the same place. We, the people, together, are the church. The church isn’t the building but all of us together, and we are called to embody a certain quality of relationship with each other. When we get this right, we form the kind of safe and supportive community many people outside the church yearn for. Let them find it in our buzzing hive.

As we enter a capital campaign, I think it’s a good time to read these verses to keep what is really at stake before us. We are revitalizing the building that supports the hive so that we may spiritually thrive.

The most important characteristic is to Love one another.

I’ve grouped the New Testament passages by common themes that use the phrase one another. Together, these themes give the blueprint for the qualities and characteristics of a healthy church community–the things at the heart of Bay Shore Church that you do so well.

The first grouping emphasizes the importance of loving one another as Jesus loved us. This kind of love isn’t about mushy feelings but about demonstrating selfless, sacrificial actions.

• John 13:34: Jesus told his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
• Romans 13:8: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
• Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another.”

Characteristic: Mutual Affection and Honor:

The verse in this category encourages us to show mutual affection and to outdo one another in showing honor. Honor is a great old-timey word that means to value someone and hold them in high esteem. In Romans, Paul emphasizes the importance of valuing and honoring one another, fostering an environment of respect and care within the community.

• Romans 12:10: “Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”

Characteristic Harmony and Humility

The verses in this category emphasize the call for us to live in harmony with one another and to exhibit humility. They promote an attitude of authenticity, urging us to associate with all members of the community regardless of social status, reminding us of the importance of pursuing peace within the body of Christ.

• Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.”
• Romans 15:5: “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus.”
• Ephesians 4:2: “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bear with one another in love.”
• 1 Peter 5:5: “. . . And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'”

Non-Judgment and Stumbling Blocks:

Scripture warns against passing judgment, admonishing us not to put stumbling blocks in each other’s way. We are reminded to shape our behavior to lift others.

• Romans 14:13: “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.”

Be welcoming.

Our next category encourages us to practice extravagant hospitality, highlighting the importance of creating an atmosphere of warmth, acceptance, and inclusivity within the congregation. These verses underscore what we are getting at when we open every worship service by affirming, “Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

• Romans 15:7: “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
• Romans 16:16: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.”
• 1 Corinthians 11:33: “So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”

Learn from each other:

Several verses encourage us to share our experiences on the faith journey. We grow by listening to and learning from each other’s experiences. We’re much more likely to embrace the lessons learned from people we know and respect than anything we learn in a book. These verses remind us to create a nurturing, supportive environment where we can learn and strengthen our faith.

• Romans 15:14: “I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.”
• 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
• Hebrews 3:13: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Forgiving and practicing patience.

Attitudes of forgiveness and resolving conflict are essential to making any community function. Numerous verses encourage us to bear with one another’s shortcomings and grievances, promoting a spirit of understanding, patience, and reconciliation. Churches should model forgiveness, unity, and restoration in a world bent on retaliation and conflict escalation.

• Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
• Colossians 3:12-13: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Prayer and Confession:

The book of James highlights the importance of confession and intercessory prayer. It encourages us to confess our sins and pray for each other, underscoring the power of vulnerability, authenticity, and accountability. I think he is saying that church is a place where we don’t have to pretend to be better than we are; it’s where we can be real and find encouragement and prayers to persevere.

• James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

Fellowship and Unity:

In a society suffering from an epidemic of loneliness, the church is a refuge of belonging. Even if you don’t feel you fit anywhere else, you can trust that you belong here. We are all sinners in need of grace and acceptance. As we strengthen the bonds of fellowship, we experience the transformative power of God’s love.

• 1 Peter 1:22: “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.”
• 1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”
• Galatians 5:26: “Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”
• 2 John 1:5-6: “And now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.”

Mutual Care and Support:

The verses in this category highlight the importance of mutual care and support, reminding us to take advantage of every opportunity to offer an encouraging word. One of the verses tells us to share our gifts within the community. No matter who you are, you have three great gifts you can share: listening, encouragement, and prayer. Sharing these gifts creates a space where everyone feels valued, supported, and strengthened in their faith journey.

• 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
• 1 Peter 4:8-10: “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. “

First, do no harm.

Like a physician who promises in the hypocritic oath, “First, do no harm,” we are warned against the temptation to tear others down. There is power in our words thus, we are to direct them toward healing and support.

• James 4:11: “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”
• James 5:9: “Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!”

Provoking and meeting together:

We close with the verse I preached about a few weeks ago, where, through our example, we are encouraged to spur others on toward acts of kindness and justice. It reminds us that, like the bee hive, there is power in meeting together.

• Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”