Church: Our Upward, Inward and Outward Responsibilities
“Built together.” That’s how Paul describes the church in Ephesians 2:22. Throughout the Bible, we are confronted with the fact that God’s people are not called to be isolated individuals, but to be a people in community, in a fellowship. The people of God are not just isolated saints — they are brothers and sisters, members of God’s family, living stones in God’s temple, and members together of one body, the body of Christ.
We often say that the church has upward, inward, and outward responsibilities. “Upward” denotes our relationship with God. We give glory, worship and praise to God, our Maker and Father. We talk to him in prayer, listen to his word in regular study and meditation, and continually dedicate ourselves to his will and service. We each do this on an individual basis, and also when we gather as the body of Christ.
In our minds and in our hearts, we are learning to love God with all that we are. With our words, we praise him and acknowledge our dependence on him. We confess with our lips that Jesus is our Lord. And with our whole bodies, we serve him and do his will in the world. In all that we do, we belong to him, and are learning to yield ourselves entirely to him.
“Inward” denotes our nurturing and faithful relationships with each other in the body of Christ. Because Jesus lives in us, we edify one another, encourage one another, teach one another, learn from one another, serve one another. The Christian life is not an isolated life. It is life in the family of God. Followers of Jesus Christ, by their very nature as the people of God, interact with one another. Our lives reflect the love of Jesus for his brothers and sisters.
Small groups are some of the main settings where Christian love and nurture “happens.” In small groups, we get to know one another as real children of God, much more than just passing acquaintances. In confidential settings, we are better able to discuss our mutual spiritual journey — our concerns, joys, struggles, and victories. We are better able to edify and encourage one another because we better know one another’s needs and circumstances. We allow ourselves to be accountable to others, and they help us grow spiritually even as we help them.
“Outward” concerns the way we interact with non-Christians in all the places we meet them — on the job, at school, in the marketplace. Having tasted the goodness of God in the gospel, we want nothing more than for our relatives, friends and neighbors to share in the joy and blessings of salvation in Jesus Christ. We pray for God to open their minds and touch their hearts, and we offer ourselves to be used by him in this process. We pray for God to help us discern when they may want to know the reason for the hope within us.
Our words with non-Christians reflect Christ’s love in us. They are encouraging, sensitive and thoughtful — not coarse, vulgar, negative or depressing. They are positive, forgiving, helpful. They reflect joy, peace, patience, gentleness and kindness. We express our care and our willingness to pray for those who are in need. Our actions are also those of a transformed heart, in the way we treat our family members, and the way we help our neighbors.
|thoughts||worship and praise of God; belief in his promises to do good for us||positive, pure, understanding our identity as members of the body of Christ||knowing God’s love for sinners, understanding our role in the world as light and salt|
|emotions||love, joy and adoration with all our heart||brotherly love, enjoying companionship||patience, love, compassion and desire for others to be blessed|
|words||prayer, Bible study and meditation||edifying, comforting, exhorting||positive, hopeful, with faith in Christ|
|actions||worship by dedicating time, money and work||service to one another, doing ministries within the church||serving in church service projects, and helping individually as Christian neighbors|
Every area of life involves relationships. Through Jesus Christ, we are being reconciled to one another and to our Father in heaven. Our relationship with God is characterized by humility and repentance when we look at what we are, and joy and adoration when we look at who he is and what he has done for us. As we ask him to fill us with his love, his love moves us to begin to desire his will above all else, and to want to share the joy of his salvation with our friends, too.
Author: Joseph Tkach