Monday, March 14, 2011

"Love & Joy" - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 218

“Fruity Christians: Love & Joy”

By Rev. Greg Smith

Is there anybody with whom you would never share the Lord’s Supper? Throughout church history, churches have had many different policies on who can partake in Communion and who cannot. The Roman Catholic Church typically practices closed communion, which means that in order to partake in Communion, you must be Roman Catholic. Some Protestant churches also practice some form of closed communion, requiring that a participant be a member of their local congregation or their denomination. Others practice open communion, meaning that as long as a person professes faith in Jesus Christ, they are permitted to share the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the congregation.

Churches that practice closed communion do so because they want to make sure that those who participate are of like faith. Churches that practice open communion do so because they emphasize the unity of all Christian churches. Before such terms existed in the Christian church, Jewish believers practiced something similar to closed communion, refusing to eat with gentiles. Jewish Christians continued this practice in the churches in the early days of the faith.

In Acts chapter 10, Simon Peter received a vision from God in which a sheet full of kosher and non-kosher animals was let down from heaven. “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!” said a voice. Three times the apostle refused, saying, “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Each time, the voice responded, “Do not call anything impure that I have made clean.” Peter was about to discover that the vision had some to do with dietary laws, but more to do with accepting non-Jews into the family of God.

Immediately following the vision, Peter received an invitation to visit the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius. He accepted the invitation, saying, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection…I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right (Acts 10:38-39, 34-35).” He then shared the Gospel with the Roman family, and they received the Lord as their Savior.

During Lent, we’re talking about the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Here, Peter learned the first two fruits—love and joy. By exercising unconditional love and acceptance of those who were “outside” of his experience and tradition, he was able to lead an entire household to a saving faith in Jesus. The result of his love was overflowing joy. Do you know somebody who needs the fruit of the Spirit’s joy in their life? Give them love, and joy will result. May God fill you with His Holy Spirit this Lenten season, and may His fruit grow inside of you.

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