“…having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47a).
What was it about the first followers of Jesus that generated such a favorable response from “all the people”? The apostle Peter’s first sermon brought the house down, so to speak. 3000 people who heard it accepted it and were baptized that first day! These formed a brotherhood that immediately began to interact with and change the face of their community. Listen to Luke’s thumb-nail description of what it was like after they decided to follow Jesus: “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46–47).
What I love about this reading—showing the church in its inception—is the lack of formalism, ritual, pomp, ceremony, or any other stuffiness about their being together. Here is the raw essence of following Jesus along with other followers. Where is the professed, proclaimed, and projected piety that seems to perfuse modern ecclesiastic practice? It was just people loving, serving, and being together with fellow believers.
Outside the “assembly” they had lives to live: which they shared with each other. Outside the walls of their gathering they had challenges to face: which they faced together. Beyond the “Sunday go-to-meeting” was the daily business of being and interacting in a negative and often hostile world. They were “family”: they found strength in each other’s similar trust in Jesus. That was “church” at the onset.
As government made their faith an occasion for persecution; they shared the humiliation. “You endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property” (Heb. 10:32–34).
When food was scarce, for whatever reason—famine, persecution, or other—they shared openly and without complaint. Some even sold possessions in order that others could eat. “There was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34–35).
When some were destitute, they didn’t or couldn’t rely on government programs. They had each other covered. Tabitha, for example, used to make tunics and garments for the widows among them. That’s why her undesired death hit them so hard (Acts 9:36–41).
Without question or doubt, living conditions in those days were far harsher and more wickedly violent than today. And there it was, in that setting, that Jesus began His noble rescue: His church. Today, we who follow Him, when we follow what His first followers did, will have what they had: a safe harbor/haven in which to live life, raise children, and enjoy friends. Together in the safety of this “family” we can reach out and also serve our neighbors. To me, that’s what church is all about.
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