“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. One of the ways that we are witnesses to the work of Jesus is by our loving unity and our generosity with one another. People can see that we are authentic Jesus followers when we love and care for each other. Jesus said it best when he said, “They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” That kind of love is powerful and contagious.” Acts 4:32-35
One of the ways that we are witnesses to the work of Jesus is by our loving unity and our generosity with one another. People can see that we are authentic Jesus followers when we love and care for each other. Jesus said it best when he said, “They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” That quality of love is powerful and contagious.
But it wasn’t just about their actions, but also about what they were proclaiming and teaching. There’s a saying that people (wrongly) attribute to St. Francis that says, “Preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary.” There’s something beautiful about that but honestly I’m afraid many people like it because it relieves them of any kind of responsibility to ever talk about Jesus. If i’m just friendly, and I serve others, and I take care of people around me, they will somehow intuitively figure out that I love Jesus, or learn about Jesus through osmosis.
But that’s not what you see in the early church. What we see is a church that was boldly living out the gospel of Jesus to others in community AND courageously speaking the gospel of Jesus to others. It’s never been one or the other. Whenever we ere on the side of making the gospel ALL about verbal proclamation OR ALL about service, we are shortchanging the gospel. In fact, to try to separate those two aspects; living and speaking, leads to some real problems. One without the other is powerless.
We need both to be an effective gospel community that introduces others to Jesus. What we preach and live is a holistic gospel. A gospel that the world can see, hear, touch.
The great power that accompanied the apostles testimony to the resurrection of Jesus was the power of a new life in the community, a new life that was manifest in sharing possessions to meet the needs of others. Our words won’t make much sense if there isn’t a foundation of loving care and service. But our service and loving care won’t mean a lot either if it’s not coupled with teaching why we love one another.
In view of this seemingly rare combination of social concern AND proclamation of the Word, it’s no wonder that Luke goes on to say, “and much grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33