By Pastor Emmanuel Akatukunda
Today, I continue with the sermon series, “Back to the Basics,” where we reflect on how to be a vibrant church in spite of the tough times we are going through. We have been looking at some lessons we can learn from the early church. Last week we looked at the aspect of being flexible. Flexibility is the character that enables us to adjust our plans as God leads us. Today we will look at the second aspect of remaining connected with other believers. Two weeks ago, we saw that the believers in the early church were connected to one another. They were not isolated in separate communes but rather different churches kept in touch with churches in other locations and shared different resources.
Created to Belong
We are to remain connected with other believers because we were created to belong to God and to live in a community. The internet and the rise of social media have amplified the need for humanity to be connected. But getting connected or networked is not a just recent innovation. It is something inherently human. Even the most introverted persons can only enjoy living in isolation for a limited amount of time. We were never meant to live in isolation. We were created to live in community. I believe that the reason why a human baby takes a relatively longer time to mature and become independent as compared say, to animals, is because God wants us to bond and form strong communities.
The Bible uses the image of the “body” to emphasize the interconnected nature of believers. We are the “Body of Christ” and each believer is a part of the body. This means that you have an important role to play in the ministry of the church. Just like the different parts of a human body, we are all different. Our giftings are different, our temperaments are different, our social statuses may also be different. We may have different experiences and living in different contexts but we are part of one Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 says:
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Verse 27 goes on to say that “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
The unity of believers is a spiritual reality that is expressed in tangible and practical ways. We are one in Christ but we have to make effort to keep the unity. That’s what Ephesians 4:3 tells us. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. How are you contributing to the unity of Christ? In what ways are you making effort to remain connected with other believers?
Love is the Bedrock
Love is the bedrock of our connectedness, otherwise we can easily manipulate and use others. Without love, many of our relationships can easily become transactional; I relate with you because of what I want from you. As someone said, some people love things and use people. This is a corrupted way of living. The right way to live is to love people and use things.
Jesus said that our love for one another as believers is one single most strategy for sharing the Gospel. When we put aside our differences and focus on the agenda of God’s kingdom, people will be drawn to God. John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Apostle Paul says that love is the most excellent way to live and do ministry. Ministry and anything we do that is not undergirded by our love for God and for His people is empty and meaningless. This is what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Therefore, our connectedness with other believers should be motivated by our love for God and our brothers and sisters. We want to remain connected with them because we love them. We cherish who they are in Christ, and appreciate what God is doing in their lives. We relate with them not as their benefactors or dependents but rather as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We acknowledge that God has endowed us differently, and therefore we need one another.
Love and humility go hand in hand. It takes humility for us to keep the unity and the connectedness between us and other believers. Philippians 2:1-5 exhorts us to imitate the humility of Christ.
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Romans 12:10 tells us that “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
We need to develop a Kingdom mindset where we see ourselves not in competition but rather in cooperation. We are called to complement one another. There is no individual believer or local church that is self-sufficient. If we share our resources, we promote the agenda of the kingdom of God. We are called to support one another, to care for one another, to rejoice with one another, to mourn with those who mourn. We are to share resources for the sake of building God’s kingdom.
In 2 Corinthians 8:14 we read an account where Apostle Paul encourages the church in Corinth to raise support for the church in Jerusalem that is going through challenges. He tells them, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality….” In Romans 12:13, we are encouraged to “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
In Hebrews 3:13, we are exhorted to encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. There are many ways to remain connected. If the early church believers remained connected without the benefits of cars, telephones, internet and other privileges available to us today, how about us? How are you actively engaged with other believers in your local church. These are challenging times but still God wants us to remain connected. We may be physically isolated but we should remain socially and spiritually engaged. Develop a habit of praying for your friends and partners by name. Call some people and ask if there is any way you can be of help to them. If the health guidelines permit, meet up with a few for a cup of tea or coffee. Remember that you are a vital part of the Body of Christ. Your talents, your spiritual gifts, your resources, your experiences are needed in the kingdom of God. Therefore, make an effort to remain connected with the rest of the Body. God bless you.