All of us have received the email and now the Facebook post that says something to this effect: Pass this on if you love…, or do not let this stop with you if you care about…, or people will know that you care if you pass this email or post on. The threat is that if you don’t pass it on you will be to blame and there will be some kind of unavoidable problem that will be the inevitable result. We all know that such things are simply a form of illegitimate manipulation. And yet, there are things in life that are encouraged or hindered based on our personal receiving and passing on or rejecting and failing to pass it on to others.
During the Sunday School hour we have been studying the book of 2 Corinthians. Last week Nathanael mentioned something that I would like to balloon on a bit and consider its implications for a local church. Consider the following two verses:
“For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them” (2 Corinthians 9:1-2).
We were reminded that in 2 Corinthians 8 Paul uses the churches of Macedonia to encourage the church at Corinth to give generously to the needs of the needy saints at Jerusalem.
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. 7 But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. 8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also (2 Corinthians 8:1-8 )
So here is the point. Paul used the churches of Macedonia to encourage the church at Corinth to give generously. Then later, the generosity of Corinth was used by God to stir up the churches at Macedonia. There is a principle here that goes beyond the issue of financial giving among believers. Here you have Christian service that is contagious. In fact, you have Christian service that is contagious such that those who originally were used by God to stir up faithfulness in other believers are served by those very believers in the future to once again be stirred up to serve the Lord in very specific and tangible ways.
Here is the truth: My service or lack thereof in a local body of believers is influential. There are two sides to this truth. Faithfulness in one believer stirs up faithfulness in other believers. By the same token, unfaithfulness confirms others in their unfaithfulness. Most of us likely are not enthused to receive a chain email or post that tries to guilt us into passing something on. There is the pressure to “not break the chain!” But when it comes to service for the advancement of the gospel and on mission living in the body of Christ there is the very real reality that our faithfulness is used by God to inspire faithfulness in others and our unfaithfulness is used by Satan to confirm unfaithfulness in other believers around us. The motivation for “not breaking the chain” isn’t guilt and shame, but a concern for the glory of God. If we desire the unique excellence of God to be displayed in and through us we should strive by the power of the Spirit for faithfulness in the Lord’s service for His glory knowing that He uses that in the lives of other believers around us. So are you breaking the chain of service in the body of Christ or are you part of God’s ordained circle of “stirring up” faithfulness in the body of Christ?