An Oasis in a Spiritual Desert
- Monday, June 29, 2009
Where do you go in a time of crisis? The answer for nearly all of us is that we go to our close friends, to the people who know us best and love us the most. So many people today hunger for close relationships and for friendships that last longer than one-night stands.
"You wanna be where you can see that troubles all are the same.
You wanna be where everyone knows your name."
So people turn to bars, clubs, to parties and neighborhood groups, softball teams, bowling leagues, gyms, spas, restaurants, and nowadays they spend hours on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, hoping to make a connection with someone they will probably never meet in person.
Maybe, just maybe, they turn to the church. And what do they find?Welcome to the Real Philadelphia
The New Testament contains a phrase that catches the essential quality of a caring church. That phrase is "brotherly love." It comes from the Greek word philadelphia, which itself comes from two other Greek words:
Philos has the idea of tender affection.
Adelphos literally means "one born of the same womb," thus translated "brother."
Put those two thoughts together and you have philadelphia-tender affection owed to those born of the same womb. I have three brothers - Andy, Alan and Ron. I owe them tender affection because we all come from the same womb. And even if I haven't seen them in a while, when we talk it's like we just saw each other last week.
Now apply that to the spiritual realm. In God's family, we are all born of the same spiritual womb. This relationship transcends status, achievement, race, ethnic background, money, education, talent, language, culture, age, sex, or any of the many other barriers that divide the human race into different groups.
Everyone who belongs to Jesus belongs to me. And I owe all of them tender affection-brotherly love. God has put into the heart of every Christian a desire to love all of God's children everywhere. It's part of the DNA of being a follower of Jesus. If you are a Christian, that love is already in your heart. You just have to let it loose.
What does brotherly love look like in the nitty-gritty? Here are four answers to that question from Romans 12:13.1. Generous Giving.
When Paul mentions "contributing to the needs of the saints" (v. 13a), he doesn't necessarily have in mind the Sunday morning offering. This NLT offers us this contemporary rendering: "When God's people are in need, be ready to help them" (NLT).
The word translated "contributing" doesn't usually refer to money in the New Testament. It's a broader word that means "to share in something as a partner." God wants his children to identify with the needs of others and make them their own. Today we live so far apart that we hardly ever see each other. Someone will suffer and we won't even know it. We have to get close enough to see the needs and make them our own.
He explains what he means in second half of verse 13...2. Genuine Hospitality
Paul says that we are to "pursue hospitality" (v. 13b). The word "pursue" means exactly what it sounds like-to run after something, to chase it down. Hospitality comes from a Greek word meaning "kindness to strangers." This was a sacred duty in the early church and a requirement for church leadership (1 Timothy 3:2). The Message translates this as "be inventive in hospitality."
In thinking about this we need to make two distinctions. First, hospitality is not the same thing as entertaining. We entertain when we invite our friends over for a party. That's a good thing to do but having your buddies over for a Super Bowl party is not exactly what Paul has in mind. Hospitality involves reaching out to new people who are "strangers" to you. And that leads to the second distinction. The word "stranger" conjures up images of odd people who seem a little weird to us. Now there are people like that in the world, and they need our love to, but that's not the focus. God wants us to think about those we don't know and find ways to reach out to them.
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