In our journey through the Book of Acts over these past weeks, we have been forced to wrestle with the compelling, life-giving, terrifying vision of the life of the early Church; lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the company of one another:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
(Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
We love this passage... And, we hate it.
We love this passage, because it’s such a vibrant, compelling description of the work and life of God on display. It’s a glimpse of everything we might hope for from a spirit-filled community of Christ-followers; awe, joy, generosity, new life... It’s fantastic! But we hate it, too. Because we’re Americans, we’re fans of democracy and the idea of self-actualization, personal responsibility, and we kind of love our stuff. So, as much as we get excited at this description of what the life of that first church looked like, we tend to choke on some of the economic implications.
But, if we could put down the pitchforks for a moment, we might consider that what we see on display in the early church is not communism - certainly not of any forced variety - but FAMILY. Because when we are made family with one another, it naturally follows that when it comes to possessions, resources, challenges, blessings, burdens and needs, the line between “mine” and “yours” gets a lot less important as we begin to establish the economy of “us” and “ours”.
In truth, our western individualism and the myth of the solitary, self-sustained, suburban nuclear family unit often just traps us in burdensome isolation. As the shame of day-to-day struggles leads us to fear being genuinely KNOWN, we inadvertently make ourselves impossible to LOVE! The way of Jesus invites us into an entirely different manner of life, together.
In the freeing grace of Jesus, it is as we risk the humility and exposure that comes with being honest with one another about the burdens we are bearing that we open ourselves to the possibility of both being truly known and genuinely loved. And further, in Jesus, the community of faith is blessed with abundance and overflow as we together have opportunity to practice generosity, compassion, prayerfulness, and all other manner of "one-anothering". To the extent that, as we simply content ourselves to bear our own burdens in quiet, desperate isolation, we in actual fact rob one another of the joy and blessing that Jesus intends that we experience in and through our family of faith!
It's been a week of shared burdens and blessings within our family; real needs have been shared and met, real intimacy is being made possible as we begin to risk being known to one another, and real, fervent prayers are being offered for one another. Meals have been shared, gas tanks have been filled, apartments have been moved, debts have been born and covered within the family... This is the good stuff! This life together that Jesus calls us into is certainly not always easy, but it is always GOOD. And I am thankful to God that I have the honor and privilege of embracing the good life, day by day, with every one of you.