I was all set to write one thing about today’s passage when something else jumped out. I was rereading the passage and never got beyond verse 1. In fact, I never got beyond the first few words of verse one. What an incredible line: Now in THE church at Antioch…
Did you get that? Not in the First Baptist Church of Antioch, St. George’s Episcopal Church in Antioch, or even Antioch Community Church. There was only one church, the church, in Antioch.
Of course, we say. The church had just started. They hadn’t grown to the point where they needed multiple churches. Actually, in Acts 11 we saw the before Paul and Barnabas ever got there, “a great number of people” had already “turned to the Lord and believed.” In fact, when the events in this passage occurred, Paul and Barnabas had been in Antioch for a year teaching “great numbers of people” who formed such a vital and healthy community that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
We also read that there were at least 6 prophets and teachers in this church. In other words, not only were there plenty of people to form separate churches, there was also plenty of “staff”. But they didn’t. There was only one church in Antioch, and nobody felt the need to go off and start a new one in order to offer their own version of Christianity that was somehow better than the one the church already offered.
Can you imagine how different the world would be if Christians followed this example and concentrated on what we have in common rather than where we differ? Can you imagine the impact if we all were joined together as one in mission and ministry? Can you imagine the scope and scale of what would be possible if all the church’s considerable resources went to ending poverty instead of financing our individual programs, buildings, and denominational boards?
What can you and I do to help make that happen? How can we do a better job of cooperating with other Christians around us? How can we focus on the faith we share with others rather than getting so hung up on our differences?
If the church took questions like these seriously, John Lennon might not have had to write his famous song Imagine as an alternative to the church and what the church has to offer. The reality for which he longed (and I expect the rest of long for that reality as well) would already be present in the world in one church serving one Lord united in one faith.
May it one day be so, Lord Jesus.