Have you ever come across a story detailing the fall from grace of a prominent Christian person or leader and thought to yourself: “Man, I hope no one asks me what I think about him or her…”? I know I have.
Have you ever wished (in June, LGBT pride month) that perhaps just this one year, no one would label you as the anti-gay, anti-love, anti-choice, church-going, Christian prude? I know I have.
How is it possible that in religiously free Singapore, in persecution-free Singapore, we might find it so hard to associate ourselves with Christ? Probably because it is easier. It is easier to confine God and Christianity to Sunday in Henderson, so that from Monday to Saturday we can live our preferred way with impunity.
I can think of two examples. An association with Jesus Christ would bring far too much scrutiny to how much we love ourselves and how far we allow vanity to dictate our everyday choices. When we are considering how much to spend on a luxury car, a luxury watch or handbag, or the latest iPhone — it would be far easier if God never entered the conversation.
Also, an association with Jesus Christ would bring far too much scrutiny to the things we prioritise in life and for parents, the priorities we impose on our children. When we are chasing that next promotion or the bigger paycheque, allowing God into the conversation would really put us on the spot, wouldn’t it? When we plan the timetable for our children, choosing between that waitlisted spot in the best enrichment class and regular attendance in children’s ministry and youth fellowship, wouldn’t it be so much more convenient if we left God out of this small part of their lives?
As Mount Hermon journeys together through the book of Acts, I can’t help but start to realise how different the early church was, in comparison to my own Christian journey here in Singapore. It is not just how challenging their circumstances were in comparison to mine. Pastor Luwin reminded us three weeks ago that in Athens, Paul did not just face scrutiny in his choices or inconveniences in his plans; he faced the real risk of losing his life for his bold association with Jesus Christ and his church (Acts 17).
Even as we prayerfully reconsider the call and cost of Christianity in Singapore today, we should draw inspiration and instruction from the character of the early church in Acts.
The church is devoted to scripture
In Acts 17, Luke has this to say about the early church in Berea: “Now these Jews… they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Just as the apostles had been instructed by Jesus, so they instructed church leaders, who in turn instructed the church and early Christians. The content of the church, the content of every conversation, was centred on God’s word.
The church is free from prejudices
Journeying through Acts 10 and 11, we must relate with the apostle Peter, a staunch 1st century Jew who was inspired by God (through Cornelius) to vouch for the truth of Gentile conversion. This must have brought every imaginable discomfort for the Jewish Christian in that time, that God should challenge the very core of the Jewish worldview. Today in Mount Hermon, are we prepared to set aside what we believe in our hearts to be “clean” so that the work of the Gospel is not obstructed by our own prejudices? It could mean fellowshipping with that lady with the odd haircut and dress sense, the guy with the questionable background or agreeing with music that isn’t to our taste.
The church is sacrificially generous
Acts 2:45 says, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” One defining characteristic of the early church was how sacrificially generous they were. While most of us live in relative prosperity and comfort, have we learned to look around the community God has put in our midst, to see if a brother or sister might have a need we could meet? Would it not be radical if we stopped for just a moment before spending our next dollar, just to consider if it would at all be possible that this dollar might bless someone other than ourselves?
The church is evangelistic
What better marker of the health of a church could there be than if she was effective in evangelism. Because of everything that was going on in the early church — her devotion to scripture, her commitment to lay aside prejudices, her generosity through sacrifice — we see on multiple occasions in Acts that the early church was growing. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Praise God! May we be encouraged and instructed as we strive toward our mission: To glorify God by being and making disciples of Christ Jesus.
- Lenith Cheng