Jesus was able to accomplish many things while he lived among the people in this world. He was a person that lived and taught people the importance of love for one another, the need for community, and taking care of the physical needs among themselves. In other ways he taught people to be selfless as they met the needs of others. This caring system may not have been very foreign among the Jews because they lived in families and they easily took care of one another as families do. But Jesus taught them a new form of family that is made up of people who care about one another; people held together by a common thread of love for our neighbor, as well as love for God.
The works that Luke records in the Acts of the apostles is how the love of God was spread by acts of mercy and grace. It was out of this group that the disciples found the necessity of creating a section of deacons who would take care of the needs of the people (Acts 6:1-7). Here the disciples picked seven people to wait tables but listen to their qualifications: “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Holy Spirit, and of wisdom who we will appoint to this duty” (Acts 6:3). The church today has to revisit some of the early practices that made a difference. Church became a new family that cared for others who were not related by blood. In the blessed unity of the early church we can learn the following faith lessons:
1. We are one in heart and soul: The unity among believers was special. It was a unity of heart, soul, and mind (peace, love and intelligence). The early church invites us to a very unique unity of heart, soul and mind. It is very hard to separate the concepts, but let me try. The soul is the source of consciousness and life in the body. It is the soul that becomes the filler of the issues of life; sometimes we call it the gut. When all is well with our soul, everything radiates from there. The heart (not the biological one) is the seat of desire and emotions. People in love draw a heart with an arrow referring to the emotional heart, not a biological heart. The emotional heart sees right, feels right, and does right. The heart cannot be polluted like the mind. This meant that the early church was willing to love unconditionally and treat everybody in fairness. They were guided by that which would not be corrupted but that was close to the heart of God.
The above theory is the thinking of Indrakshi Saha, shared in Optimistic by Heart, Overthinker by Habit.
The best place is when we are at the center of all three as they come together.
2. Our Testimonies Are Key: After experiencing the risen Lord the disciples were filled with new energy and boldness. They told their stories (testimonies) of the encounter with the risen Lord. I think of Cleopas and his wife, Mary on their walk to Emmaus. A unique community was built out of people with similar experiences.
One of the things that changed after Jesus’ resurrection was that the disciples became bold and were no longer afraid. This new boldness was even made bolder by the coming of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were able to go out and preach the good news of Jesus and the power of the resurrection. Witness of the word was taken seriously in the early church too. These early teachings, then, built a unique community bound together by the love of God and love for one another. They felt the intense responsibility for one another. When people tell their stories they come away with real power. Those of our veterans who come back from their tour of duty and share their stories have more meaning than just reading them. The early church had discovered the power of testimony. When we go on mission trips and share how we are blessed by the experience (a song or a message) we share that power. We need to improve on this aspect of where God touches us and invite others to come and be blessed.
3. Exercise Prayer: This new community of faith met regularly with the aim of praying, breaking bread and sharing their life experiences. Prayer became part of who they were and through it they were able to support one another in the midst of persecutions. They started caring for the practical needs of their people: food, clothing, etc.
The early church quickly realized the importance of prayer as a means of getting connected, as well as rooting themselves to the teaching of disciples. Prayer life was a supremely important part of who they were. They wanted to live a practical life where they addressed the needs of others. They did not forget those with nothing and they were willing to share. This sharing was not as a result of legislation but as a spontaneous urge of love. The joy of true sharing is experienced when our hearts move us to share. This then, brings the true love of Christ alive in us. We share not because we are compelled but we believe that it is the right thing to do.