Longing for Community
August 12, 2020 | by: Brandon Flynn | 1 Comments
2 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.—Acts 2:42–47
As part of my preparations for the upcoming school year, I have had the occasion to read back through the book of Acts for a class that I will be teaching this fall. It is, of course, a wonderful story, tracing the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), accomplished by the powerful witness of the Holy Spirit working through the early church.
As I read through Acts this time around, following the travels of Peter, Paul, and others throughout Palestine and the Roman Empire, a question popped into my head that I had not thought of much before: Where were these guys staying? The book of Acts tells us in multiple instances, and the basic answer is that they were staying at the homes of other Christians throughout these regions. So Paul was the ultimate couch surfer, and there seems to have been no shortage of Christian couches available.
This in and of itself is not particularly remarkable, until you notice some of the periods of time involved. For example, Paul stayed in Ephesus for over two years (Acts 19:8–10)! It’s one thing to imagine hosting a traveling Christian teacher for an evening or two in your home, but imagine having them live with you for over two years!
At least one of the reasons Paul was able to travel all throughout the Roman world spreading the Gospel was the generosity and hospitality of Christian communities throughout the world. For them the family of God was not a metaphor, but a lived reality that all could see, as we see in the passage at the opening of this devotion. “Day by day” they were breaking bread in their homes (v. 46), together giving thanks and praise to God and “having favor with all the people” (v. 47). They did life together in such a way that they truly knew and loved one another as a family who lives together. As Jesus had predicted, the world knew they were his disciples by seeing the love they had for one another (John 13:35).
If you are like me, the social separation of this time period leaves you longing, more than ever before, for community. Many in the non-Christian culture are expressing the same, vowing to never again take for granted the community of other human beings, and, more than ever before, to pour themselves into other human beings.
Many people are realizing that they had under-valued that aspect of human life, life lived together with other people, full of mutual love and care.
When people begin to emerge from quarantines and social distancings, will we be able to invite them into a real family, or merely a metaphorical one? What might it look like for us (as individuals and as a church) to become a bit more like the early Christians regarding hospitality and community?