The World Needs The Christian Community To Be One
They community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. – Acts 4: 32-35
This passage, and one very similar to it in Acts 2, verses 43-47, speaks about the experiences of the earliest Christian communities. They were as yet small, but they were full of life and, as the passage indicates, completely committed to one another through their faith in Jesus Christ. These communities preached boldly and did many things in the name of Jesus and because of that they added many to their numbers.
These small communities were the rich soil of the Church. The seeds that Jesus, the Great Sower of Seeds, planted in these communities did, in fact, produce 30, 60 and 100 fold for the Kingdom of God.
How are we to understand and reflect upon the description of these communities today? In a world with ‘mega-churches’ and whole countries that claim to be Christian, what does the passage above say to us? What does it mean for us?
It seems that the central message of the passage above is not the size of the communities, but that they experienced themselves to be “of one heart and mind.” Can the Christianity of today say this of itself, with all of its artificial divisions and competing denominations? The answer is painfully obvious: No, it can not. The greatest scandal of Christianity today is that it is so clearly divided and particularized.
Who would have the greatest interest in this division in the Church? Why, the Liar himself, of course. The Kingdom of God is One. It, by the Nature of its King, can have no divisions, no sects, no denominations. The Liar fell from Grace because of his pride. He separated himself from God because of it. It is he who desires to divide the Kingdom of God and the community of believers. It is in his stubborn defiance of the Love of God that he, and he alone, wishes to cause us to be divided, to preach against one another, and to condemn one another. He knows only too well that, “A house divided cannot stand.”
The great irony, of course, is that it is the Liar’s house that is full of rebellion, pride, division and chaos, and cannot, and will not stand. It is self-destructive. It is the very source of chaos.
The passage above also tells us that those early Christian communities thrived because they cared for one another’s needs. They claimed nothing as uniquely there own, not even property. We, of course, live in a different time than they did. Our times, though, are no more materialistic than theirs. Yes, we own property. For us the mistake is to believe that “we earned it,” therefore, “we are owed it” and all that it can bring to us by way of the comforts of life. When material things become more important than the Good News, when they take our whole hearts and minds, and take us away from our obedience to Jesus’ commandments to love one another, to humbly serve the least among us, then they can only be sources of division.
Ideologies are things too. When they are disguised as theology they, too, can become sources of division. This is even more dangerous because ideologies that wear the clothes of theology can lead the innocent astray. Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
Until we Christians begin to dialogue sincerely with one another, out of true love for one another as actual brothers and sisters in Christ, and begin to rid ourselves of all the false things that cause the divisions among us, the world will continue to roil in chaos. The world needs this of us.
Let all of us who call ourselves Christians ask ourselves this one question: If all of the Christians in the world today let go of the false things that divide them and once again become, like those early Christian communities, a single body in possession of one heart and one mind, what might God do for the world? Is that not what God wants of us after all is said and done? Let us all pray, as one Christian body, then, that God will give us the grace to truly become one with him in Christ Jesus. Let us all pray the words that Jesus gave us, with our whole hearts, minds, bodies and souls, “THY kingdom come, THY will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Let us pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen! Let it be so.