Why did people fall all over themselves to get a glimpse of Jesus? Climb trees to see him? Hang on his every word? It was the beauty of the kingdom of God that Jesus exhibited in his personality and actions.
The gentle humility of Jesus convinced people they had no reason to fear him; he was not about to hurt them. His approachability made them feel welcome in his presence; he would never humiliate them. They became excited about the things of God because he was among them. Something about the beauty of his life convinced them their lives could become beautiful as well.
Why did the earliest church grow so rapidly? While a preacher or musician might want to claim it was the power of the apostles’ preaching or the vibrant worship of the earliest Christians, the truth is that it was the beauty of the community that formed around their preaching and worship that drew in others.
And what effect did it have on you last week to read about the dozens of Christians who gave their Rolex watches and sold their boats to help the victims of the recent flooding? How did it make you feel to hear about the church that decided to take its $4 million building fund and use it to build an inner-city ministry center to drug addicts? And what about . . .
Okay. I’m sorry for misleading you. The stories about Jesus and the earliest Christians are true. But the ones about Rolex watches, boats, and a repurposed building fund are just fanciful make-believe.
The life of the original community of Christians in Jerusalem created such a stir that it drew others like a magnet into what they were doing. Those first believers were not only “praising God” but also enjoying “the goodwill of the people” because of their beautiful presence in Jerusalem. And the church grew.
Those first-generation followers of Jesus had been right. Following the pattern of his beautiful life had made their collective life beautiful too. The beauty of his bride turned heads to her companion – and drew them into the community of faith formed around him and in his name.
As a matter of fact, the stories you read about Christians in last week’s news may have been about scandal or possible criminal charges. Some might have been about angry church fights and division. Still others could have carried pictures of their red-faced screaming as they opposed a new city ordinance.
“Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness” (Ephesians 5:26-27 MSG).
The world is waiting to see that beauty on display in these ugly days.
-Dr. Rubel Shelly—