They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)
Today, we’ll look at the second dimension of building and establishing God’s kingdom: forming communities governed by God’s values.
Every kingdom is organized into communities—states, counties, cities, villages. The church is the organizing principle of God’s kingdom. The local church creates the framework for followers of Jesus to come together around worship, discipleship, and mission. These church communities, because they seek to live under God’s rule and according to God’s truth, should be shining examples of a radically different way for people to live.
Jesus cast a vision of how men and women could live in this new kingdom reality. The Sermon on the Mount represents perhaps the most revolutionary vision ever cast for the thriving of human society living in harmony with God. Along with the rest of Scripture, it serves as a blueprint for this new way to live in God’s kingdom.
In his discourse Jesus starts by encouraging the down and out; the excluded ones, the insignificant ones are now included in the kingdom. He goes on to redefine right and wrong, suggesting that not only are murder, adultery, divorce, and revenge wrong, but the very attitudes of anger, lust, and selfishness behind the actions are also sins. He tells us that we are to love not just those who love us but our enemies as well. We are to walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek, and pray for those who persecute us. He addresses generosity and compassion. Jesus teaches us to store up real treasure in heaven by not storing up earthly treasure for ourselves.
Lastly, we are told not to worry but rather trust God and not judge others but first look to our own lives. He summarizes all of this by stating that all the Law and the Prophets can be summed up by this: “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12).
Authentic churches truly living together in this way offer a radically different and beguilingly attractive alternative to every other model of human community.
As sinners living in a sinful world, how is this vision of community possible? How is it different from the community you live in?
Father, thank you for giving us guidelines for living right and well and abundantly. Please help me have the strength to obey you. Show me how I can help my community be more like the church you envisioned.