Living as a Family
Note: this post is second in a series focusing on the disciple, family, and missionary aspects of our identity in Christ.
This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for so many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. — Romans 15:22-29
From this passage toward the end of Romans, we see the Apostle Paul longing to visit the church there to be helped by them in his mission to Spain, to enjoy their company, as well as to disciple and encourage them (Romans 1:11). His mission is clear: to preach the gospel where Christ has yet to be named (Romans 15:20-21). This is why he hasn’t made his way back to Rome, he has been hindered or obstructed by his mission. However, as he lives in light of this mission, he still seeks to care for the body at Rome and in Jerusalem. He still wants to strengthen them in their faith. He shows us that as we live in light of God’s mission on earth, we still preach the truth of the gospel to one another and joyfully care for the body of Christ. Our lives as disciples, in a family, boldly preaching the gospel are interdependent.
In this post, we’ll focus on Paul’s aid to the saints in Jerusalem referenced a few times in Paul’s epistles. Paul has the church in Corinth contribute, as well as Galatia, Thessalonica, and Philippi. There seems to be another offering that comes from the church in Antioch (Acts 11:27-30). Generous donations from the churches in Antioch, Macedonia, and Achaia were quite countercultural and showed the unifying effects of the gospel. Not only does it reconcile man to a holy God, but it brings down cultural and socioeconomic barriers all to the glory of God. It reflects the kindness and mercy of our God, who sent his Son to seek and save the lost, not seeking to be served but to serve. The tangible and practical needs of the church in Jerusalem provided the opportunity for the churches to be a joyful reflection of the gospel in their contributions.
The counter-cultural nature of this contribution should not be lost on us. Only the gospel can unify these two very different cultures, and compel the churches to send resources to people they have never met. How much more then does the gospel empower us to care for one another who live in the same culture and know each other as brothers and sisters?!
Our care for one another flows from our identity in Christ. Jesus exists in eternal community as a member of the Trinity, and through faith we are adopted into God’s family. Therefore, this is an aspect of our identity in Christ which empowers our love and care for others. We love others as we’ve been loved, genuinely and self-sacrificially. We serve as we’ve been served, humbling ourselves and counting others as more important. This can only be done by faith, looking to the person and work of Christ. The gospel frees us to live this way, and a healthy Missional Community is made up of disciples who understand and live in light of this truth.
Our love for one another is a powerful apologetic for the gospel. In our “churched” culture, this shows the depth and the power of the gospel. Our love for one another shows that we’re actually Jesus’ disciples, not followers in name only. It’s in this Christlike love that we glorify God and help each other along the way. And as Paul shows us in Romans 15, this care for one another doesn’t take place in a vacuum, but as an integral part of the missio Dei.
Discipleship and strengthening in the faith are at the core of our love and care for each other. It’s the gospel that saved us and it’s the gospel in which we stand. As opportunities to care for one another arise, we start and end with the truth of the gospel. If care is necessary due to the consequences of sin, we go to the gospel. If care is necessary due to difficult circumstances, we go to the gospel. The Good News frees us from persistent sin and unbelief, and it encourages us when everything is falling apart.
May we as a church give as much intentionality to our care for one another as Paul did for the saints in Jerusalem. This involves sacrifice and a love that flows from God, but as we behold the glory of Christ by faith and reflect on his service to us as his body, we can in turn love one another in this way. We may find ourselves helping people move, watch kids, give money as needed, and many other tangible things as we live our life together in God's mission. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit empowers this in us by pointing us to Christ and empowering a deep, loving concern for one another.
Here are a few passages that help frame out what our life together as a family looks like:
- Matthew 18:15, 21-22 & Colossians 3:13…healthy conflict resolution and Christlike forgiveness.
- John 13:34-35, Romans 13:9…genuine love for one another.
- Acts 2:42-47 & 1 Peter 2:9-12…grace/love/mercy/obedience in practice, on display.
- Romans 12:15…genuine love resulting in shared emotions.
- Romans 14:19…sacrificially pursuing peace and mutual upbuilding in the faith.
- Romans 15:1-7…harmonious living to the glory of God.
- Romans 15:14, 2 Timothy 2:2…teaching/discipling each other.
- Romans 15:25-27, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, & Galatians 2:10...tangible/practical care for one another.
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:13…living as the body, motivated by love.
- Galatians 5:13-15…Serving through love.
- Galatians 6:1-2…loving/sacrificial restoration.
- Ephesians 1:15-23 & 3:14-19, Colossians 4:12-13…prayer for one another, seeking spiritual maturity.
- Philippians 2:1-11…humble, loving concern for the body.
- Hebrews 3:12-15, 10:24-25…exhortation/meeting together. Christ-centered community.
- 1 Peter 1:22-25…gospel-centered love for one another.