The New Community
Lord God, open my heart to learn of Your heart, my mind to learn of Your mind, I pray.
Read Acts 4:32-37
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
”You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving” (Amy Carmichael).
Over the past few years I have made visits to Christians in the slums of Nairobi. I vividly recall sitting with two brothers in a shack in Kibera (the largest slum in Africa) and asking them to describe their life there. They astonished and humbled me by saying that, although conditions were very difficult, they had discovered that poor Christians in the city showed a great willingness to share what they possess and help each other. I have never forgotten these words: “There is so much love in Kibera.”
In much of the developed world, where the ideology of possessing has driven people apart, we may find Luke’s description of the first Christian community hard to understand—and we may be relieved when commentators tell us that it would be wrong to take this passage too literally! However, the challenge presented by this apostolic sharing of goods cannot be totally and easily dismissed when we know that across the southern hemisphere today, in the shanties, favellas and slums of the major cities, millions of our poor brothers and sisters are reproducing the kingdom life first seen in Jerusalem.
How do we respond to this challenge? Perhaps first we should recognize that this story is not to be explained away, but should be seen for what it is: a description of “the life of a community that is indeed the sign of the coming order,” a Church that knows itself to exist “in the last days” (Justo Gonzalez). We may then ask what it would take to recover such a lifestyle, creating communities of love, peace and sharing which would challenge the idols that dominate our culture and bring us close to poor Christians in other parts of the world, who seem to know that Luke is to be taken seriously.
If there’s a gap between the “ideal church” described here and your experience of church life, what first step towards renewal can you take to open your whole life to the Spirit?
Compassionate Lord, help me to reach out to others with the same compassion and love You have shown me. May I demonstrate the difference You make in a life.
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