We often tend to expect more from other Christians, don’t we? Just about as often, though, these expectations set us up for a fall. Scripture in fact says we’re all fallen people. We’re going to let each other down. It’s inevitable. We’re all lost causes without Jesus.
The trick, then, isn’t simply to pursue relationships with other Christians, but to pursue Jesus together as Christians. The two things sound similar, but there’s all the difference in the world between them. When Jesus is the focus, suddenly all those little things that often get in the way of our relationships don’t seem so important. When we pursue Jesus together, our relationships naturally become closer and deeper, because we’re letting Jesus set the tone. And Jesus is never going to steer us the wrong way.
So let’s dig into this, starting with Acts 1:6-11. Let’s stop for a few moments and try to picture this: One minute Jesus is right there with his apostles—the people He’s entrusted to share His life and message with the rest of the world—and the next, He’s gone. And on top of that, two men in white clothing, presumably angels, show up and in essence say, “What are you doing, just standing there?” How do you think the apostles felt at that moment?
And for that matter, in what ways do you feel (or have felt) like you’re “just standing there” in your Christian walk, waiting for Jesus to tell you what to do?
Cut to Acts 1:12-17 and 21-26. How did Jesus’ followers respond, once they got past their initial shock? A number of ways—they go back to “the scene of the crime,” Jerusalem, to the same upstairs room many believe the Last Supper with Jesus had been held; they pray together “with one mind”; they choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot.In short, they get on with the work they do know Jesus left them to do. And they do it together. And we see the much bigger fruits of that obedience in Acts 2.
Now, think about what that’s looked like in your own lives. How does knowing other Christians you can trust and share your struggles with—no matter what kind of struggles they are—help you to stop “just standing there” and move forward? When has someone who’s been through the same trials really been there for you (or when have your trials helped you help someone else)? Who do you know right now who’s not only your friend but who pushes you closer to Jesus?
I hope there isn’t dead silence at the other end after those last couple questions. But if so, that’s OK. This is huge. We need to find answers if we don’t already have them. As William Barclay put it, “It has been said that true friendship begins only when people share a common memory and can say to each other, ‘Do you remember?’ Each of us is one of a great fellowship of people who share a common experience and a common memory of their Lord.”
If you have a small group, try this activity with them. Trust me, it works: Get a pile of ice cubes. Get everyone to take one ice cube, and then stand in a circle. If there are more than 12 people, form groups of six to eight for this experience. Hold hands with the people on either side of you, and hold the ice in between your hands. Hold hands tightly—with the ice in between—until the ice completely melts. Don’t let go. It’s going to get cold, but remember, you’re all in this together! When the ice has fully melted, drop hands. Blow on them, rub them together, get your circulation back. Then discuss:
• What was it like as you held onto the ice—and it got colder? Did it make it better or worse to know that you were all going through the same thing? Explain.
• How does standing together with others help us to keep Jesus a priority in our lives, even (or maybe especially) when things are tough?
• If you could ask this group for advice or prayer on just one thing right now, what would it be?
• Who right now would you really like to develop a spiritual relationship with? Not just a friendship, but a relationship in which Jesus is the important person in it?
Go make it happen. And may God bless you as you move forward together.