Reading Acts 4 32 – 35
Talk: How has this account of the early church changed how we live?
This account of the early church in Jerusalem is inspiring but at the same time somewhat daunting and filled with questions. Life had changed and the followers of Jesus had to start anew. This happens to us to a greater or lesser extent all through our lives, starting from birth. Birth is a difficult process. As infants we have to make sense of the world, work out what on earth it is all about. We are nurtured by the people around us and acquire all manner of instructions and guidance but, in the final analysis, we have to work out our route in life from any number of options. And the events of the last year have taught us a great deal. We have gained insight and will gain further insights about how we need to reorder our lives.
The apostles and new disciples had to decide how to express their new found faith, having behind them a wealth of guidance from Jesus’s teaching and example. It had been a roller coaster from the excitement of Palm Sunday, the fear and despair of Good Friday and then the realisation that Jesus had been returned to them. And now, meeting with the resurrected Jesus, they had new inspiration and energy. Somehow a new way of living had to be put in place to live out the loving attitudes that now filled them. They decided to live as far as they were able, within certain restraints of course, as a caring community, sharing their resources so that no one was in need. This was a wonderful, ideal way of living in harmony and looking after each and every individual. It would of course inevitably be patchy. Some would be more enthusiastic and purist than others. I don’t have time to talk about the story which follows this passage but it would be worth reading again about two of their community, Ananias and Sapphira, at the beginning of Acts Chapter 5; two people with whom maybe we have sympathies. That’s Acts Chapter 5.
This way of sharing wasn’t completely new to the Jews. The best previous example is mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls where there is a description of a ‘covenanted community’ who shared their possessions. Around the world in general, communal living has been tried many times; the Jewish kibbutz is a well-known example and Karl Marx postulated the idea of ‘from each according to ability and to each according to need.’
Living out Jesus’s teaching and example of course can be approached in many thoughtful ways but the way the early church tried it is a lesson to us and the love and care embodied in it should stay in our minds and actions.