Living by God's design

Study 7: A compassionate community

When we become Christians, we have a new status: we are no longer our own, we have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Yet we live among people who are more interested in pleasing themselves than in pleasing God.

world compassionSome churches approach this dilemma from the perspective of separation: seeing great danger in engaging with the world, they withdraw from it. The net result is often culturally naïve and introverted groups who are isolated from the wider community.

On the other hand, some churches intentionally approach their idea of building God’s Kingdom by focussing on social justice at the expense of a clear and consistent presentation of the Good News.

Which is the correct approach in our context? How do we keep our Christian integrity when faced by apparently conflicting interests? What might “grace” and “truth” look like when we are faced by the need to proclaim the Kingdom and reach out to those in need?

Today’s study, from Ephesians 4 helps us to reflect on our calling, maintaining a church with Christ at the centre yet at the same time seeing initiatives to build God’s Kingdom, bear fruit.

I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it. (Thomas Aquinas)

Remember that even Jesus' most scathing denunciation - a blistering diatribe against the religious leaders of Jerusalem in Matthew 23 - ends with Christ weeping over Jerusalem. Compassion coloured everything He did. (John MacArthur)

To think about

  1. What changed when you became a Christian?
  2. How would you define “compassion”? Where might we find “compassion” that follows the example of Christ?
  3. What challenges does GHBC face as we seek to offer an authentic, biblical Christian witness?

Writing to the community of believers at Ephesus, a cosmopolitan centre of trade, learning and recreation, Paul outlines the essential foundations of the church. This letter isn’t a dry statement of theological truths – it’s a reminder of our many blessings in Christ and a radical call to practical faith, centred on our call from God and a practical commitment to working together.

In this study we’ll consider how Paul’s twin requests to “… bear with one another” and being “…kind and compassionate with one another” help us to demonstrate the unity of the church and the love of Christ.

The basis for unity: Christ

  1. Please read Ephesians 4 verses 1 to 6. How do you find ways to build common ground with people who you struggle to get on with?
  2. In what ways does verse 2 help us to understand the benefits – and the reality – of “bearing with one another?”
  3. How might Genesis 1 verse 27 help us as we make every effort to keep the bond of unity?
  4. Where and how is unity threatened? What can we do to prevent or overcome this, without compromising our gospel witness?
  5. What boundaries might there be to bearing with each other? How do we draw the line without recourse to judgement?

All churches are unique – both in their composition (who’s in them) and in their call to a particular mission (who we are reaching out to and where we find ourselves).  Given that uniqueness, there’s also a lot we share – not least the fact that we are on a journey and we still have a lot to learn!

The expression of unity: love

  1. Please read Ephesians 4 verses 17 to chapter 5 verse 2. What difference does being a Christian bring to our outlook?(verses 17 to 24)
  2. What example can we give to others through the way we relate to each other? (see verses 20 to 28)
  3. How does “encouragement” help to build unity and so develop the body of Christ?
  4. Where does compassion help us in the process of forgiveness? How does getting rid of all the things Paul mentions in verse 31 encourage this?
  5. What might we have to do (as individuals and as a fellowship) to become imitators of Christ? (verse 1)?

Pause for thought

What does living a holy life mean for you this week?
Who can you encourage – either in what they are already doing or to help them to stay on the way?

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