When the Christian community lights its candles and puts off the aroma of Christ, those that are not yet Christians see it and begin to want what they see. They see how we treat each other and those around us. They are curious when they get scent of the aroma of Christ, and they wonder about it. How we act and react to the circumstances God places in our paths will go a long way in spreading the aroma of Christ to others.
However, being a community in action is not always fun and easy. As a matter of fact, sometimes it is down right hard. We are God's instruments in those situations to show that we can glorify God in all circumstances of life. There is power when the Christian community is in action, both in good and bad circumstances. We are called to bring light to darkness and darkness is not a pretty place.
What does that light look like? Here are some recent examples from my own life experience in Christian community:
- The small groups in our church make it a practice to provide and deliver meals for new moms from the birth of their baby until 4-6 weeks after the birth. That may sound like a big deal, but it is an act that literally changes the family's life, particularly if they are new to the group and have not experienced this type of Christian community before.
- An extended family member of a gentleman in our group really needed a new roof, and the family was unable to do it themselves. His mother had been chronically ill for years, and his father's health was poor as well. We asked for some help and had several people show up on a Saturday to remove and replace the roof.
- This same family eventually had to have their mother move in with them because their father was no longer able to care for her on his own. She was bed-ridden and unable to speak. She had had very little opportunity to attend church over the past several months. Our small group decided that maybe we should just take the church to her. On our group night, we all packed up, including our 18 kids, and went to their house. We sang songs, ate ice cream, and spent time talking with her and her family. It was such a great time, and I know she really appreciated it. Then, only about 2-3 weeks later, she went home to be with Jesus. We were all grateful that we seized the opportunity when we did!
- There is a trailer park in our area, and the families that live there are struggling to get by. One small group had a heavy burden for all of the children who lived there. This group organized a VBS just for those kids and had several volunteers to help. They took the church to them and held VBS in a common area of the trailer park.15-20 kids showed up every night. Many of them had no church background. Since then, several of the older kids have joined a Bible study in the home where the small group meets. They are learning more about Jesus.
- Some time ago, my neighbor's grandmother died in Michigan. My other neighbor, who is a member of our small group, felt that we needed to go there to show our support. We drove up to be with her and offered to bring her youngest child home with us so she would have less to worry about while visiting with family.
- We have several friends who open up their homes for small group meetings every week. It can be a real stressor to get your house ready for a group of people every week, but they do it with willing hearts. They use their gifts of giving and hospitality to show others what Jesus would do.
- One of our friends decided to build a house while expecting their third child. It always seems like we make more than one major life change at the same time! Anyway, they had to live in an apartment until the house was done. Baby number three arrived before they made the move. Their apartment was a pit, and that is being kind. Three other friends and I decided to do something about that before she got back from the hospital. We had to get a key from her in-laws, and they were a little reluctant to hand them over! We blitzed the place and cleaned it like it had never been cleaned before as a gift for their new arrival.
- For the past three and half years Sharon had been in our small group. She was a nurse and a 10-year survivor of a lung transplant. She was only 61 years old. Her daughter divorced about 2 years ago, and the men in our group went to a town over an hour away to help her move back. She did not know any of them at the time. After her daughter moved into the area, she and her 2 small children also began attending our small group. Late this past summer, Sharon was in and out of the hospital with lung rejection, pneumonia, and fevers. At one point, in late August, she had not been able to be at worship on Sunday morning for 4 weeks. She had been teaching the K-1st grade class, and it was all little girls. I decided that I would take all seven of those little girls down to the hospital on Sunday morning and have worship with her. Boy was she surprised to see us walk in! We sang tons of songs, told stories, and prayed with her. It meant the world to her, and I know the girls will never forget it either.
- Since we were Sharon's group leaders, we made many trips to the hospital to visit. We home school our kids, so they almost always made the trip with us. We heard some complaining at times, but I think it is important for them to see how to take care of those in the Body. Our family loves to play games, so one night we took Skip-Bo to play with Sharon while we visited. We all had a great time, but the kids were not sure if we should play Skip-Bo again because Sharon won! In October, Sharon ended up back in the hospital with a fever that quickly led to her body shutting down. There were lots of visits and prayers by lots of people. We watched her daughter's children most evenings so she could see her mom. On the night Sharon went home to be with Jesus, the kids spent the night. Our small group helped do much of the funeral service.
- For the past 3 years + my husband has been struggling with Lyme Disease. At the beginning, we did not know what was going on. We exhausted the doctors here and ended up at the Cleveland Clinic and then eventually in California. The ways our Christian community helped us is beyond description. When we were at a clinic 6 hours away from our home, two of our friends showed up just to hang out and be with us while we waited to have tests done. While we were gone, some magicians came and cleaned my house.In the mean time, our community is still praying for our healing. They have been there every step of the way!
These examples have all happened within the last couple of years! This is what the light of Christian community looks like to the church and to the lost world. I believe it is what the Lord had in mind when the New Testament church is described in Acts 2:44: "All the believers were together and had everything in common."