I read a story that took place in 2001. It was about a house located in Chicago. The home was in disrepair; there were weeds everywhere. It had obviously been abandoned. The residence found its way onto the auction block due to back taxes. The house was purchased, and, as the new owner sent a crew to clean it up, they discovered something horrific. Inside the run-down home was a man who had been sitting in his reading chair, apparently dead of natural causes. Crumpled next to him was a newspaper imprinted with the year 1997. The man had been dead a long time, four years. Nobody noticed; not a neighbor or relative, or even a friend. How could no one have noticed?
A Pharisee asked Jesus what was the most important commandment of all. For Pharisees, there were 1,613 commands. Jesus narrowed down the 1,613 to an absolute focus, and replied:
“The most important is this, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second command is like it.’”
Jesus said you should “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
When you break it down to the main thought, it’s all about relationships.
In Acts 2, we see the New Testament church just being birthed. Verse 42 says, “They (the new believers) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread….”
Verse 46 goes on to say, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes…”
Meeting out in the public in the temple courts is a lot like what we do in church now, and worshippers breaking bread in their homes was not just part of the Lord’s Supper. The disciples met together very regularly, and fellowship was very important. The meals in the New Testament were much like Thanksgiving meals where people gathered together early, enjoy several courses of food, and stay late. There was a relational aspect to these meals. People were doing life together. This was a high priority to them.
The Greek word that is translated as fellowship is ‘koinonia.’ It means to share, to participate in a common cause, to engage in social intercourse. It is doing life at such an intimate level with fellow believers that they become like family to you. They become necessary for your spiritual and relational survival.
A relationship with Christ really means a Christian enjoying a personal relationship with Jesus. A personal relationship with Jesus is essential because no one else can have a relationship with Jesus FOR you, plus, a relationship with Jesus was never intended to be private. Too many times, well-meaning Christians say “I’ve got God in me and we are fine. I don’t need a church.”
The disciples, followers of Jesus in the New Testament, weren’t thinking of a personal relationship, they were fully living out a shared relationship with Jesus. The disciples enjoyed and experienced His power and His reality along with other Christ Followers.
Why doesn’t that kind of intimate relationships happen today? Air conditioning.
Before the air conditioner, where did people hang out? They would gather on the front porch. With the air conditioner, people went inside. Add the attached garage, garage door opener, gated neighborhoods, fenced in back yard, caller ID, and identifying ringtones.
We have created all of these ways to avoid people and avoid relationships, purposely or not.
In John 13:34, Jesus said, “Love one another.”
But wouldn’t you agree, in reality, much of the time, what we are doing instead of loving one another is avoiding one another?
A disciple of Jesus breaks bread.