Sunday, June 14, 2020

A Fellowship of differents

The first European church began as a fellowship of differents. A wealthy fashionista named Lydia, an abused slave girl and an ex-praetorian guard, and his family, living out his retirement as a jailor in this outlying Roman colony. It would seem that Holy Spirit pulled together, as the founding church members in Philippi, a very diverse group of people.

Scot McKnight describes in his book "A fellowship of Differents" a typical house church in Rome.

Understand that these early Christians did not meet in churches and sit apart from one another in pews, and then when the music ended, get in their chariots and go home. No, their churches were small, and they met in homes or house churches. A recent study by a British scholar has concluded that if the Apostle Paul's house churches we composed of about thirty people, this would have been their approximate make-up:
  • A craft worker in whose home they meet, along with his wife, children, a couple of male slaves, a female domestic slave, and a dependent relative.
  • Some tenant, with families and slaves and dependents, also living in the same home in rented rooms.
  • Some family members of a householder who himself does not participate in the house church.
  • A  couple of slaves whose owners do not attend.
  • Some freed slaves who do not participate in the church.
  • A couple of homeless people.
  • A few migrant workers renting small rooms in the home.
Add to this mix some Jewish folks and perhaps an enslaved prostitute and we see how many "different tastes" were in a typical house church in Rome.

Scot McKnight, A fellowship of differents, Ch 2

But Paul made it clear how these desperately different people would relate to each other. They were ONE. Not one because they managed to work out all their differences. But one IN Christ Jesus. 

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28

Or as it is put in a literal translation of the Greek;

there is not here Jew or Greek, there is not here servant nor freeman, there is not here male and female, for all ye are one in Christ Jesus.

And as the Galatian believers were gathered together, not in rows facing the front, they're in someone's dining room and the centre of their activity really is the fellowship meal or the communal meal, Paul's letter was read aloud to them. Maybe there was a dramatic effect placed on the word HERE. Here at this table, we are all one because of Jesus. 

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