Christian Community and Its Role. By REV. DR. DOMINIC ISAAC. Philadelphia, USA.


"Christian Community and its role", it is a theme for personal reflection to think and begin to grow by playing the role according to the teaching of Jesus Christ in the community. The term "Christian" means the believer of Jesus Christ who believes

He suffered, died on the Cross-and on third day He rose from the dead on the third day. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead"(The Apostles' Creed). The word "Community" generally means body of individuals organized into a unit. It is a kind of society. Which is in a sense described as the community of the human race and the community of the nations. They live together in a group with an organized way on a particular place or region for the common interests. It is united by certain characteristics, e.g. same culture, language, aim, ethical motivation and goals to accomplish some achievements. The word "Role" means a part played by actor or the function of an individual in relation to the task of an organization.

Thus Christian community and its role means the believers of Jesus Christ who follow his teaching and plays a part of His/her community in relations to the task of the community. The community people work and serve together for the betterment of mankind. They take interest and are united, socially, morally and religiously as a community and Jesus Christ becomes their leader and a head or "Good Shepherd of the Community"(Jn.10: 11). The aim of this article is to make ourselves aware, how we as Christians can serve and can work together actively for the service and for the mission of God without judging and criticizing others but rather to fulfill the plan and the mission of God. Which was given to Jesus, from Jesus to His apostles and from His apostles to us.

a) The Teaching of the Bible
In the New Testament, especially in the Synoptic Gospel and in the Gospel of St. John that describes Jesus Christ has the Head and leader of the community. It is beyond our thinking and mind that how Jesus thinks about human beings and how he wanted to establish the community by choosing twelve disciples to continue the Slavic mission of God the creator. Before choosing the disciples, Jesus went to the mountain and spent whole night in prayer (Cf. Lk.6: 12). Jesus called His disciples into a big circle and from His disciples He chose His twelve apostles (Cf. Lk. 6:13-16). The number twelve recalls the twelve tribes of Israel. The word "disciple" means a "learner". It comes from Latin discipulus means pupil or learner. In Greek "mathétés", the root of this word is also found in Isaiah 8:16 and 1 Chronicles 25:8. The role of the disciple is to learn more and more about Jesus Christ. A Christian man spending a whole life learning about the Lord whom He will some day meet face to face. A word "apostle" in Greek means "apostolos" and this word comes from the Greek word "apostellein" which means, "to send".

Thus the word "apostolos" means "someone who is sent out". In the Greek language there are many words which is used for the word "send" but the word "apostolos" in English emphasizes the elements of the commission, authority, power, responsibility of the sender. So an apostle is the one who is sent on a mission, in which he acts with full authority on behalf of the sender and he is accountable to him. These apostle were His "inner cabinet", this small group went every where Jesus went, they were collaborating, respecting, accepting, listening, learning helping, preaching and even eating together with Jesus Christ. He further described that Jesus knew that the end was coming of His life. He requested that the saving plan of God must continue in the world until He comes again in His glory therefor he Chose his twelve disciples that they became his living books or documents for His preaching and missions.

They also became very obedient and faithful to listen the voice of Jesus Christ. "They were fishermen" (Mk. 1:16). When He said, to them "Come follow me and I will make you fishermen for the people and immediately they left their nets and followed him" (Mk. 1:17-18). So they took this opportunity to preach about Jesus Christ. Each played a special role to up-lift the community and to support each other as Jesus commanded them. Jesus said to his disciples, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love"(Jn. 15:10). In this saying Jesus has given the vision and idea to His disciples and followers, to abide in His love. Love is the key word of His teaching. The disciples continue to realize His love and to enjoy it in their lives.

More over, the love should be a way of them being willing to die for one another. The people, who are willing to follow Jesus' teaching. The greatest example of human self-sacrifice was for a man to die for his friends (Cf. Jn. 15:12-13) After twelve apostles Jesus Christ appointed seventy others and sent them in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go and commended them (Cf. Lk. 10:1). "Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house!" And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you" (Lk. 10:6).

i) The Twelve Apostles as a Small Group and Their Role
The primary function and role of the apostles were to be with Jesus Christ, to learn from Him, to preach and to cast out the demons (cf. Mk. 3:14-15; 6:30). Since these activities were limited but after Pentecost this situation was completely changed. The apostles received "The Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the spirit gave them this ability" (Acts 2:4) and the apostles also received spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28-30; Eph. 4:11), to serve the people and to function in the community. Peter was the first one who began to preach to the people of Jerusalem. He was standing with the eleven apostles, he raised his voice and preached to them (Cf. Acts 2:14). And those who welcome his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were baptized (Cf. 2:41). In fact in early Christian's areas worked and served the Church through "agape" experience and prayer. In the NT we also see that Peter became the head of the community organized the "Koinónia" (means fellowship) and three thousand people in Jerusalem were converted.

ii) The First Converts and Their Role in the Community
The first converts, they devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching on "fellowship" (Cf. Acts 2: 42-46). In fact this "fellowship" grew due to the breaking of the bread and praying together. It really became an extra-ordinary experience in their religious and spiritual lives. Which motivated them to pray together constantly and become a community of Jesus Christ. They were obliged to continue to do "breaking of the bread" everyday, which is in Greek called "agape" means "the feast of love". The religious and ethical lives of these people were completely depending on the teaching of Lord Jesus because the mighty power of the Holy Spirit was working in them. Day by day they spent much time together in the temple "for pray" and with glad and generous hearts (Cf. Acts 2:46). They continued to attend the service in the temple. They never forgot to visit God's house and they began to play the active role in the community.

iii) The Community of the Believers and Their Role
The community of the believers became bigger and now the whole group of those who believed was of "One heart and soul and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common" (Cf. Acts. 4:33). The main role of the community was praying "together and giving" to the apostles. They were doing for the common good of the community. The term "Common good" is to be understood, " the sum total social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily. It has three essential elements. While working earning the respect of the persons, the social well being and development and having peace among them, no fight, no anger and egoistic mentality (Cf. Gaudium et spes S.26).

F. W. Grant explains, the early community of the believers expressed the reality of their common life in Christ by practicing a community of goods, instead of selfishly holding on to personal possessions. They looked upon their property as belonging to all the people. Whenever there was a need, they would sell land or houses and bring the proceeds to the apostles for distribution and they distributed whenever was the needed. In the community prayer, the witness of the words, the charity and love of the brethren were supremely important. They all had the sense of responsibility for each other. Their hearts were moved to share that the society becomes real Christians.

The time has come to examine our role individually as well as the member of any Christian community. What is my major focus in the community? Or what am I thinking about power, authority, controlling, prestige, status or serving, supporting, guiding, and collaborating with the others. How I involve myself in the community? The prayer life and spiritual life is becoming lifeless. How we can continue them in the modern world? How we can accept the challenges from the age of electronics and computerized environment? Religious fellowship is lacking and it is not much encouraged. The parents must go to Church for religious fellowship in the Church with their children. Today the Christian people have to follow the life of Jesus Christ and His apostles. They have given us the best model to grow spiritually and religiously. Therefore in modern world, we have to change our attitude, behavior and life style. The early Christians were more giving to the Church rather than receiving.

Now we have to stand our own feet and be proud to help the needy people. Our attitude must grow more positively and ask the questions about ourselves. What I can do for my community or Church rather what the community or Church can do for me? We still need to be organized, disciplined and unite in ourselves from heart, mind and soul. The words of St.Cyprian are very important to remember and he stated that "The universal Church is seen to be a people brought into unity of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit" (St. Cyprian, De Orat. Dom. 23:PL 4, P. 553). We must come together to bring Trinitarian unity among ourselves, to discuss, to plan and to act as a member of the community for the mission and glory of God. Above all, we need to grow in the context of communication and by having concern for each other. Each member of the community must be ready to serve voluntarily to the people in order to receive the reward from God rather than from the people. Today God has a message for us, as he gave to Elijah, "The Lord will be passing by" but we must experience and explore our presence to Him.

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