05 March 2021

The Church's Foundation

As Christians, we are called to be a community of believers. We are not required to share exactly the same beliefs or to agree at all times on all things because our fellowship is not based on adherence to law or on moral "rightness," but on love, sharing, and forgiveness (Galatians 5).

Given the way Jesus started his Church, by following the path laid out by his cousin John (Luke 3:1-6), by calling the Twelve (6:12-16), and then the Seventy-Two (10:1-24), he practically guaranteed that there would be disagreements. He further complicates this start by giving the Holy Spirit to individuals at Pentecost (Acts 2), rather than having them rely on Peter for divine revelation, and then complicates the message again by calling Paul (Acts 9). Jesus sent out not one person with a singular message, but no less than 85 direct disciples to establish his Church.

Peter was sent to Jerusalem, Paul to Rome (in prison no less), John provided for Jesus' mother Mary and may have later gone to Turkey, Thomas is said to have gone to India, Matthias is said to have gone to Germany, the seventy-two were scattered as "workers into the harvest field," and the locations of the ministries of the other disciples is unknown.

The authors of the New Testament all agree that what brings us together as Christians is not a shared morality (or law), but a dedication to "walk with the Spirit" both individually and as a community (1 John 1:1-4). It is the experience of the Holy Spirit that gives us purpose to share the Gospel, it is our dedication to the Gospel that makes it possible for us to fellowship, and having fellowship in the Spirit "makes our joy complete."

John proclaims that the Gospel is not something we take on faith, for "we have looked at and our hands have touched;" it is not accepted on reason alone but on experience. John emphasizes this fellowship as the point of the Gospel, and to make fellowship possible, we must "walk in the light" (1:5-7). John tells us that "God is light" so as Christians, we must not keep secrets from one another. This begs the question, what is the point of keeping secrets from one another?

John goes on to clarify that this is because we want to appear to be without sin, but that this desire makes liars of us (1:8-10). How as a Christian community can we balance these desires, to live the Gospel, to be a community, and to be right with God and with one another? John raises the example of Christ as our answer.

We must confess to one another, and to God, when we have sinned, for "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1:9). Our fellowship is based on forgiveness, not agreement. If we forgive one another every slight (Matt 6:12), do not seek to correct one another (Matt 7:3), and sacrifice of ourselves rather than see others punished for their misdeeds against us (Matt 5:38-42), then we will be children of God indeed.

Peace be with you.

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