Intro to this issue
This issue continues a series of reflections on covenant love and Christian covenant communities. How did covenant community begin? And what is its significance for the wider churches today? Christian Covenant community began 50 years ago and spread throughout the world through charismatic renewal. The ecumenical covenant community movement is a sign of God’s work of restoring Christian unity and renewal of life together in the body of Christ.
The first Christian community began in Jerusalem on the Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out among the first disciples of Jesus Christ. They were led to share their lives together in a close-knit bond of covenant love, brotherly affection, and committed care for each and every member of the community. It was a family of families with every member addressing one another as brother or sister. Life together included common times for regular prayer and worship, teaching and study of God’s word, sharing of material resources, financial assistance for needy members, care of the sick, widows, and orphans, and generous hospitality and welcoming of others to come and experience the Gospel lived out in everyday life in Christian community.
One key element of growth for Christian communities is the mutual upbuilding in love, unity, and care for one another as a family of brothers and sisters in Christ. The Apostle Paul throughout his letters to the early Christian communities emphasized the importance of this mutual upbuilding of the body. Here are a few verses from Paul’s teaching:
- For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5) … Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19)
- “For building up the body of Christ… God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:12, 16)
- Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him … holding fast to [Christ] the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God (Colossians 2:6-7, 19)
- “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… For the body does not consist of one member but of many, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12,14,25-27)
In our Sword of the Spirit communities, we pray a common prayer each week for the unity of God’s people. Part of that prayer includes the follow petitions:
Lord, unite your people in brotherly love and in your truth that we might together give witness to Christ in the world.
Lord, encourage and strengthen by the presence of your Holy Spirit all who are suffering for their faithfulness to you. Restore your people for the sake of your great name. May your people be without spot or blemish, and ready for your Son’s return.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
Let us encourage one another and all the more as we see the Day of the Lord drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).
Sincerely in Christ,
Don Schwager is the editor of Living Bulwark and author of the Daily Scripture Reading and Meditation website. He is a lay religious brother and life-time member of the Servants of the Word.