When I read about the early Christian church in the book of Acts, I am struck by how powerful it was. The early church is passionate and fervent. People are getting saved left and right. God is definitely active and moving in the early church.
Sometimes I get sad because this seems so different from the state of the church nowadays. The Christian church seems so divided, at least here in the United States. Christians seem more tepid than passionate, more concerned about politics and building wealth than loving and serving those in need.
There’s an interesting passage in Acts that I think can shed some light on why the early church looked so different. Here’s what it says:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
2 Keys to the Early Church
Two things stand out to me in this description of the early church:
- The early church had incredible unity. All the believers were one in heart and mind. They were unified, together, and on the same page. They focused on what they thought was essential (e.g., following Jesus), and were not distracted by everything else going on in their lives. You don’t see them arguing about minor aspects of Jesus’ teaching, or debating over who to support in the next Roman election. Christianity in the U.S. today, on the other hand, is more characterized by disunity than unity.
- The early church shared everything and gave to those in need. The early Christians weren’t attached to their stuff. Those who had extra sold what they didn’t need, and gave what they could to those who didn’t had enough. You don’t see extreme poverty or extreme wealth in the early church. People weren’t focused on building wealth; they were focused on following Jesus. I think there’s a reason why Jesus teaches so much about money. It’s impossible to love both God and money. When you love money, you are focused on benefiting yourself (often to the detriment of others). When you love God, you are focused on loving and serving others. In the U.S., Christianity and wealth often go hand in hand.
What do you think about the focus in the early church on unity and giving? How could you incorporate these principles in your own life and faith?