We continue our series on…
The A- Z of the Christian Faith
L is for Laos (people).
This month we have performed a slight sight-of-hand
trick with the letter L. We have chosen a New Testament Greek word to look at
instead of an English word. (We can do this because the New Testament was, of
course written in Greek) Laos is Greek for ‘people.’ So this month we
are looking at ‘ό λάος
the people of God.
Another English word for ‘the people of God’ is
the Church. Unfortunately, we use the word Church for lots of different things.
While it is used for the people of God, it is also used for building in which
the Christian community meets, and sometimes gets confused with the institutions
of Christian religion, especially the bishops and clergy. I want to strongly
argue that the most important and basic understanding of ‘Church’ is that of
the community of Christ, the people of God, you and me together.
In its earliest days Christianity was as much about a
community of people it was about a set of beliefs. The disciples were those who
followed Jesus; they were not a group that had a definite set of doctrines. In
fact, according to the gospels, the disciples frequently misunderstood and got
things wrong. Nevertheless they were still members of Jesus’ group of
followers - his community. ‘Belonging’ was as important as ‘believing’.
This was only natural as they first Christians were Jewish and so were immersed
in the Old Testament idea of God choosing himself a special people.
After Jesus had ascended, the disciples began to try
and make sense of all the experiences and pieces of teaching they had received.
They began the long process of determining what they believed about Jesus of
Nazareth. But initially, the communal aspect of the people of God never
diminished in importance. We see a
snapshot of the early life of the Church in this passage from the Acts of the
Care and Worship
All who believed were together and had all things in
common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds
to all as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the
temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous
hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. [Acts
It is clear from this passage that the early
Christian lived very close to one another. The community was very important
indeed and it was focused upon sharing and worship. They held all of their
possessions in common and made sure no one was in need. They also worshiped with
other Jews in the Temple, while practising the uniquely Christian act of
worship, the Eucharist, in their own homes. Caring for each other and
worshipping together are two of the most important acts for the Christian
Sharing the Good News
Another interesting passage comes from the end of
Matthew’s gospel. It is known as the Great Commission
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the
mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped
him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in
heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And
remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. [Matthew 28: 16-end]
According to the tradition in Matthew’s gospel, the
Christian community, the people of God are to ‘make disciples’. This
necessarily involves looking to other people and reaching outwards. We are not
called to be an insular community, focused only upon ourselves and our own
cares. We are called to take the Good News of Jesus outside the community and
The number of ways in which we share the Good News
are as numerous as there are people on the planet. As Saint Francis told his
monks one day, “Tell everyone you meet the Good News of Jesus Christ, and
where necessary use words.”
Looking three ways at once
From these short passages we can conclude that the people of God, the Christian community, should be looking in three directions at once. Clearly this is a difficult thing to do (and it may be why the Church often gets things wrong). First, we should look ‘upwards’. We should be attentive to God in our worship together and our prayer lives. Second, we should look inwards. We should be a loving and caring community, looking out for each other. Third, we should always be looking outwards. God will always give us opportunities to show His love and spread the Good News.