There has been so much emphasis on a “personal relationship with Jesus” that I wonder if we’ve lost track of how important our life with others is in our pursuit of knowing him. When Jesus led his early followers he had them living and loving together. They didn’t just all have personal one on one counseling sessions with him. They learned from each other as they learned from him.
Jesus loves his people…and sees himself as deeply connected to them as a group. When a man named Saul made it his life’s work to kill and intimidate the early followers of Jesus he learned this the hard way. This is what happens to him as he’s on his way to into Damascus to kill these early followers:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Can you imagine how strange this must have been? He’s not “technically” persecuting Jesus…right? He has been pushing around his followers, not Jesus himself. Here’s what we learn from this moment:
Jesus so closely associates with his people that when you hurt them, you hurt him.
I can’t help but think that this had a huge impact on Saul, so that later when writing a letter to a gathering of Jesus followers in Corinth he refers to those followers as “the body of Christ,” the literal expression of his work on this earth.
This understanding of these gathered people is multi-layered and complex, but at the very least it demonstrates Jesus’ connection to his gathered peopl and their reliance on one another to experience all that he wants to do in and through them. They DEPEND on each other to fully express and understand who Jesus is and what he is up to in the world.
The people of Jesus are diverse and dependent on not just him, but each other. They need each other and are designed to serve each other and work together to serve and change the world.
The implications of this are clear:
You and I must be walking closely with others if we want to truly know Jesus and his work in this world. We must be connected to actual people that live near us and walk with us and we are called to all of the “one anothering”of the early followers of Jesus.
I know that people have been really disappointed with the institution known as “the church”…and it is a mess at times. But what if all of us stopped thinking that the church is supposed to be something that others fix and we just did our own small part? Committing to love and serve those that love and follow Jesus, without holding judgement, learning to be humble and servant hearted, choosing to walk with those that are a lot different than us, not just choosing those that like what we like and do what we naturally do.
Things just might change. One thing’s for certain: you would.
Written by: Jay Pathak
Jay Pathak and his wife Danielle left Columbus, Ohio in 2001 to start and lead the Mile High Vineyard in Denver, Colorado. Since that time, Jay and his team have worked to build the church into a vibrant community that engages and impacts the city at every turn. Jay’s multi-ethnic heritage adds a unique sensitivity as he speaks nationally and internationally in both conference and classroom settings. Jay is also the co-author of The Art of Neighboring with Dave Runyon.