In 1960, cartoonist Bill Keane introduced the longest syndicated comic strip, which appeared in over 1500 newspapers worldwide. It was different than most comics or other political satire in that it used a single captioned panel with a round boarder. The caption usually had something to do with a topic that almost every family could relate to or understand. It was like looking through a lens and getting a single statement view of the American family system. People refereed to this as Bill Keane's "Family Circus".
Today, I want us to create our own Family Circus. Not one that is perfect, but one that has longevity and brings joy to anyone who will allow themselves to look through the lens toward us; a place where the outside can look in and, with one statement, know, feel and see something different.
I will give you the caption, and I want you to fill in the circle, just like Bill Keane would.
"All The Believers Were One In heart & Mind."
The Believers Share Their Possessions | "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." - Acts 4:32-35
What if we took God’s description of the Church in Kansas City as a family seriously and literally?
What would happen if, as a group of individuals, we sought Jesus fervently, loved one another sacrificially, and then shared the gospel boldly?
What would someone see if they looked through the lens at this group?
They would see supernatural love, and supernatural unity.
Please Note: The term, "Supernatural" , doesn’t mean that only God can make it, whatever "it" may be, happen.
Supernatural is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as, (1) of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe especially: of or relating to God, a god, or spirit. (2) departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature.(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatural)
The nature of our flesh is selfish, unaccountable, irresponsible, and prideful. Knowing that, what happens when i combine the two definitions listed above? We find the Spirit Of God empowering us, and then us responding to that empowerment so that we can do more than would naturally be allowed in any other general moment.
Again, it's about the relationship we have with Christ. God doesn't just pixie dust things into existence. We have to respond to the empowerment He provides.
It is my application of truth through the empowerment of the Spirit causing God’s creation to engage above the normal expectation for a divine cause. Our actions and attitudes, our choice, will determine the outcome of the truth, empowerment, and purpose God provides.
The amazingly beautiful piece there is that it transcends all of the barriers and excuses we could have sinful humans. Age doesn’t matter, race doesn’t matter, socio-economic standard doesn’t matter, political preferences don’t matter; we have no excuse not to act in the empowerment and purpose God places upon us.
What makes Acts 4:32 a reality?
What actions do we need to be showing through one single lens?
The world around us should not have to look at us through multiple lens, multiple angles, and multiple times to decide if we are good or not, they should only have to look through one lens.
So, ask yourself, are the actions and lifestyle you are living easily interpreted as Christ like through the lens we are being viewed through?
As Jesus is getting ready to change the paradigm of ministry and leave the earth, leaving the heart of the ministry in the hands of His followers, He speaks about a newness. He speaks about something of greater importance than He had up to that point.
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:33-35 (NIV)
Jesus, as a leader, quantifies the amount of love He is calling us to abide in as he explains, "as I have loved you." The old, normal standard of "love" has to be changed, and Jesus changed it here in John 13. Jesus, in that simple statement, shifted the focus away from the "law", and focused us to reflect inwardly. To understand what Jesus means here in John 13, we have to understand how much He does love us. Jesus is calling us to shift the focus.
Tertullian's commentary on the impact of this verse was, "They love before they know each other".
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." - John 15:9-13
"This is my command: Love each other." - John 15:17
This command is not "law" based, but based in love - supernatural love.
This is a love that is constant.
It is not a love that moves us, but a love that makes us unmovable.
It is a place that we remain, and is an unchangeable character trait in a believer.
Here’s what I’ve learned, which has been addressed by Jesus; when I find it hard to love someone, or when I’m not connecting with people, I’m usually out of line with God.
Obey God, and remain in love; obey God, and operate in love.
I am not talking about being "in love" or the emotion of love, but rather "remaining in love", which means to operate within His love.
God’s Love and Ours | "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. - 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)
If we love with supernatural love, God will abide in us.
Remember, we are talking about the same love that:
gives us the power to live through Him
that loved me BEFORE I loved Him or even considered Him,
that sacrificed, atoned and forgave
If we love, our love will operate in force as it is made complete in us. If we want to experience all of God’s love in its complete fullness, then we have to love.
What does love look like?
"Love" is much more more than being more friendly than the church down the street.
Go to a school concert, or pay attention at your kids sporting event, notice what is the bonding or connection like between people. It should be exponentially more obvious in churchs in Kansas City.
It's an expression of joy that smiles more, gives more, trusts more and does more.
Think about the lengths that Jesus went to in order to reach people... to connect to people.
What does "love" look like? The question we should be asking is, "what does Jesus look like?"
Jesus was moved with compassion,
Jesus was beaten,
Jesus was accused,
Jesus was betrayed,
Think about the times that you KNEW God’s love was expressed or given to you. Got it? Good, now reproduce it!
There will always be those that give the excuse, "no one agrees on everything" and "not everyone gets along", but that isn't what unity is about. Unity isn't the absence of argument, strife or friction, but it is defined with words like:
Being unified requires a different mental process that changes how we respond, and removes the opportunity to merely react.
One phrase stands out in Jesus' prayer that defines the possibility of unity.
"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one."
The word "glory" refers to position. The position that Jesus took while on Earth was one of a Servant Leader. This is the same position that Jesus gives his followers, which is what makes unity possible. When we serve correctly (no matter who, what, why, where or when) that unity produces its designed purpose - "to let the world know that You sent Me and Have loved them."
We try and come up with all of these strategies, gimmicks and techniques to reach people with the gospel, but Jesus already told us what the fool-proof method would be; simply operate in unity.
Life Worthy of the Gospel | "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel" - Philippians 1:27
It’s easy to talk about unity while holding hands in a circle singing "Kumbaya", but unity requires a mutual commitment. Unity doesn’t just happen, it is a mindset that moves us to action.
We claim love for Jesus, but we opt out of church.
We claim to be committed, but avoid what is contractual from the Word.
If Jesus asked you to sign a literal contract of faith, would you sign it, or be offended because it's not necessary (normal)? Yet, we aren’t striving for "necessary" or "normal". We should want to be personally engaged at a supernatural level of unity.
We need to make sure that our understanding of grace does not undermine the heart and design of God.
"For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope." - Galatians 5:5
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." - Galatians 5:13-15