When we think of the word community it is likely multiple definitions come to mind. The area one lives in, their church or congregation, a support system of friends and family. The past two years have been challenging and difficult as we as individuals adapted to seemingly ever-changing circumstances that stressed our definitions of family and community as well. One may feel a sense of disconnect after two years of physical separation and not be sure how to proceed. Perhaps we dwell on the former things and the ease of not having to struggle to define our understanding of community.
As believers, we often look to the example set forth in the book of Acts to inform our definition of community. In those chapters we find a group of people who cared for each other and provided for the needs of others. They lifted each other up in hard times and pointed each other back to the message of the Messiah, instilling hope through the promises of scripture.
Recently, when taking a closer look at Acts 15, something new struck me. This is, of course, the chapter that details the Jerusalem Council. What struck me about this chapter in relation to community is not that they were creating greater community in welcoming in the gentile believers coming to faith, but that in order to do so they had to change course and embrace a new definition of community.
In the chapters leading up to Acts 15, the relationship standard between Jews and gentiles during that time period is explained as being separate. In making the decision to bring the gentiles into community without burdening them with keeping torah, the apostles were essentially thinking outside of the box of their own context to follow what the Spirit was doing amongst the people.
Their willingness to embrace a new concept of community despite history providing potential contradictions to that decision, speaks directly to the mission of TJCII as well as the times we find ourselves in today. It makes me wonder if perhaps God is again challenging his followers to think outside the box with him again about community. In the methods in which we pursue community, and the people or groups with which we pursue community. Are there barriers that have existed in the past between denominations or peoples that God is calling us to rethink?
TJCII was built on a vision of this type of unity and it is times like the present that shake us out of our comfort zone enough to tune into where the Holy Spirit is leading and step out in boldness into new territory. Please pray with us for more hearts to be opened within the body of Messiah to redefining community and creating greater unity with each other.