Indisputable 21st Century Facts:
Relationships in our neighborhoods with our neighbors are characterized by three things,
They are not natural
They are not normal
They are not necessary
The first two items are a product of the third. Because our relationships with our neighbors are not necessary to our lives or our neighbors, almost all interaction seems unnatural and out of the norm. If you went to work, came home, and got up the next day for a year, the change or impact in your neighborhood would be negligible. Because of refrigeration and transportation, we can go and get food that we don’t grow, catch, or butcher from places and people once a week or sometimes once a month and go back to our nondescript lives in our single family homes or apartments.
No real relationship with other people is really necessary which make any interaction with people on a more than superficial basis feel odd–not normal or natural. In the first century, it was different.
Indisputable First Century Facts:
Relationships in the ancient world of Jesus day were characterized by three things:
They were necessary
They were natural
And they were normal
Without refrigeration and transportation, most people lived the main part of their lives with their extended family and neighbors. The fish merchant, the baker, the seller of lamb, the dyer of clothes (the baptizer), the blacksmith, the leatherer, etc.–these were necessary relationships. The first-century neighborhood was composed of natural contacts and normal relationships that were necessary to one another’s lives. In such an environment, when a person came to know Christ and experienced the life transformation that the gospel brings to our motivations and interactions with others–everyone in the neighborhood knew it and knew it pretty quickly.
Not so today. Today, if someone comes to believe in Christ, it often times occurs in a location apart from where they spend the bulk of their lives, among people they only see once a week (if that), and when they get back to their neighborhoods, there is very little interaction with anyone.
This is what the modern church needs to overcome.