What is church? There are a lot of metaphors in the Bible
to bring the concept to life – it is a body, a building made
of living bricks, and it is a family.
This passage describes a group of mostly unrelated people living as a family does. They eat together, they see each other’s needs as their own,
they view their assets as common property, and their lives
are intertwined. When you come into your family home, you
don’t see the sofa as yours and the armchair as your sister’s – it is just the family furniture. You love each other as a matter of course, but you also have tensions and conflict to work out. For the early church, generosity was inbuilt into community life because they understood they belonged to each other.
21st century societies have grown more individualistic as they have become more prosperous. We increasingly have the means to meet our own needs and as we do we can be tempted to think the needs of others are none of our business. We rarely lend our possessions let alone give them away.
We’ll go to church and maybe to a mid-week meeting of some kind but we see the rest of our time as our own. We don’t often live as though our church is our family. The church of Acts 2 was freshly fledged, soaring on Spiritgiven wings of passion and energy. They were instinctively living out Jesus’ instructions to ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13:34–35).
The love Jesus was speaking of was not warm feelings. It was tangible, visible, practical care that could be witnessed and attested to by an outsider. It was the sharing of homes and meals and finances. It was selling ‘property and possessions to give to anyone who had need’ (Acts 2:45). As the early church lived as a generous and sacrificial community, they drew more and more people into a relationship with Jesus.
In our times of isolation, loneliness and fragmentation, how much more compelling is a church that lives as a family? People are hungry, starving for belonging and acceptance.
We have been welcomed into the generous heart of God and if we live well together we light the way home for countless weary travellers.