All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. Acts 2:44-46
The early church, as described by Acts, was a very tight community. People shared all they had in common, making sure everyone had what they needed. They prayed and broke bread together every day, and developed a culture of deep gratitude and generous joy among them. In addition, Acts tells us, these early Christians had the goodwill of all the people.
The old church patriarch, Tertullian, proclaimed that the Romans took notice of how the early Christians were different than other people. "See how they love one another!" he quoted them as saying. The early Christians made a big impression on others with their love for God and neighbor. People noticed what love centered choices they made, the caring things they spent their time and energy on, and how they intentionally and compassionately stewarded their lives and their resources. These disciples made their religious community their highestpriority - it came before money, family, or livelihood. They gave generously not only to one another in the church, but to orphans and widows in the wider community. They trusted each other, and more importantly, they deeply trusted God, and so they felt safe to be generous. They trusted that God would provide for their every need, and therefore they could freely and abundantly give of themselves without fear of scarcity.
I've heard many people talk about this passage in Acts as if it is unrealistic for us today. No one gives up all their possessions and lives communally with others except crazy hippies from the 60's, right? We need to take this story metaphorically, because who on earth would take it literally, right? But I think as followers of Jesus we actually need to take this passage quite seriously in our common life as a church. In the light of this passage, we are called to ask ourselves some pretty challenging questions.
Just what would I be willing to give everything up for?
Just what are my deepest priorities in this short, God-given life I have?
What is really worth investing in and what is only window dressing in a church?
What am I holding onto that could be magnified into compassion and justice if I gave it away more freely?
What is God calling our church to do together as one body? How are we being called tobe a counter-cultural group in our own day?
These are hard questions, and I have no easy answers to them, but one thing I do know is that our early forebears dared not only to ask them, but to act upon their answers.