The Bible makes it clear that in the early church there was a lot of contact between Christians who lived far away from each other. There is no doubt that Christians took great interest in how their brothers and sisters in all sorts of places were getting on. And it is clear that they often took steps to help them, even when they were separated by long distances.
In the endings of most of the New Testament letters, for example, greetings are sent between fellow believers. And often these Christians lived far apart.
In some passages, those sending greetings and those being greeted are named individually. See Romans 16:3-15, 21-23; 1 Corinthians 16:19, 21; Colossians 4:10-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; 2 Timothy 4:19-21; Philemon 23-24.
We also find more general greetings between churches or groups of Christians. See Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:12-13; Philippians 4:21-22; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; Titus 3:15; Hebrews 13:24; 1 Peter 5:13-14; 2 John 13; 3 John 15.
These greetings strongly imply that the early Christians were genuinely interested in each other, even if they lived far apart or had never met.
Praying for each other
In the Bible we also find a concern that Christians pray widely for each other. Especially noteworthy is Ephesians 6:18, where Paul tells the Ephesians:
‘Pray in the Spirit at all times with every prayer and request. And with this in view, be alert with great endurance in all your requests for all the saints . . .’
Nothing in the context of this verse suggests that ‘all the saints’ should be interpreted in a limited way. Paul is clearly instructing his readers to pray for Christians throughout the known world.
Important too is Paul’s collection for the churches in
Judea. He spent years collecting money from various congregations
for the impoverished Judean believers. See
Romans 15:25-31; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 2:10.
This collection allowed wealthier Christians to practically express their love for their brothers and sisters in need. And it also served to strengthen relationships between the Judean churches and those elsewhere, many of which were some months’ journey from
Close, loving contact
In the early church, then, Christians typically took a real interest in what was happening with other believers in far-flung places. And they did this even when the others were personally unknown to them. What is more, they often took steps to help fellow Christians in prayer and more practically too, including those who lived far away.
There was clearly a sense of love, unity and family among God’s people that didn’t take account of physical distances between them.
We should all follow this example
In a real sense the world today is a much smaller place than it was in the days of the early church. We can fly to the opposite side of the globe in 24 hours, and we can communicate with someone there in a matter of seconds. We are therefore much more able to find out what is happening with Christians in various parts of the world than was possible in the first century.
Given that getting information is relatively easy, and given the biblical emphasis on Christians taking a close interest in each other, there is really no excuse for us today not to find out what is going on with our brothers and sisters the world over. We should be learning what is happening to Christians in various places and praying for them. And, where possible, we should be helping those who are in material need.
Of course, there are many more places in the world today where there is a Christian presence than there were in the first century. And we can’t be expected to know what is going on in every single place.
But God surely expects us all to find out at least some basic information about the circumstances of Christians in various countries. And He surely wants us to pray for the church in the whole world, even if not specifically for believers in every individual country.
For Christians to take no more than a passing interest in the lives of brothers and sisters in foreign countries is to act very differently from the early church. And it fails to take proper account of Ephesians 4:4, which tells us that there is one body, i.e., church, in the world. It also seems quite selfish for anyone to focus almost all their attention on their own country.
Finding out about what is happening with Christians all over the world can often be very encouraging.
For example, at the present time the church in many places is growing quickly. Knowing something about what is happening in
, Brazil and Uganda , for instance, is bound
to encourage us. We can also learn a
huge amount from brothers and sisters who are experiencing great church growth. Nepal
On the other hand, knowing about the huge difficulties and persecution faced by Christians in some countries is also very important. For example, if we are aware of what Christians in
, North Korea or Pakistan are going through, we
will be able to pray for them in informed and specific ways. And it might give us ideas about how else we
can help them too. Iran
Nor should our interest in world affairs be limited to what is happening to Christians. We need to be aware of the major goings-on among non-Christians too, especially so that we can pray for them.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 Paul instructs Timothy:
‘. . . I urge that requests, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority . . .’
Clearly, if we know something about what is happening in various countries, we will be able to pray more effectively for their governments. And we will know better how to pray in other ways as well.
Giving of ourselves
Making the effort to learn about and pray for Christians and others in distant places will mean giving of ourselves to a certain extent. But we must remember Jesus’ promise in Luke 6:38:
‘Give and it will be given to you.’
Giving to and for others is bound to be good for us too. Nor does learning about and helping those in far away places have to be a burdensome or particularly time-consuming thing.
Let us all, then, like believers in the early years of the church, make it our aim to be world Christians. If every Christian took this attitude, God’s church would surely become much stronger.