Sunday, April 06, 2008

Togetherness and Conflict in the Christian Way

Acts 2.42-47
The first Christians were a community, learning, sharing, praying and breaking bread together. Modern Christians talk about being a community or a family, but the first Christians actually lived the talk, even sitting light to their own possessions, which they held in common. And the first Christians made a serious difference to the world around them, causing awe and wonder by their signs and wonders. They enjoyed the goodwill of all the people, but - of course - this could not last. Daily the Lord was adding to their numbers and success breeds jealousy and opposition.

When the Church is marginalised and is concentrating on marginal things no one takes much notice of us. When the Church is making a serious difference ad being true to the teaching of Jesus it will inevitably provoke wonder and opposition in equal measures.

1 Peter 2.19-25
This is what the writer of 1 Peter explains in his letter. Christians must expect to suffer for doing what is right because that is what happened to Jesus. Indeed, the more we do what is right the more we will bring down suffering on our heads because, by implication, we will be challenging what is wrong and threatening its hold on the world. In the final analysis, that is what the Cross did. By his death on the Cross Jesus challenged the power of sin because he opened the possibility of ordinary people being set free from its hold. We need no longer be helpless victims of the genetic inheritance which makes us shallow, self-centred beings. We can, instead, discover the latent image of God within us. This is a cause for awe and wonder, but it also provokes stubborn opposition from those who do not welcome such radical change and are more comfortable with the way things were.

John 10.1-10
Jesus' simile of the sheepfold reinforces the same point. The sheep in the fold are the followers of Jesus. He himself is the Good Shepherd, who leads the flock by day and lies down across the gate to the sheepfold to protect it from harm at night - always placing himself between the flock and the danger which it faces. And we have already seen that the danger is very real. The flock is constantly threatened by rustlers who seek only to steal, kill and destroy.

These three passages make sombre reading. They warn that following Jesus is difficult and can be dangerous. However, it is worthwhile because of the potential which Jesus can unlock in us if we take his way seriously - when we put our trust in him he can transform both our individual lives and our life together in community.

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