Yesterday I had the honor of speaking at our annual United service in Cedar Springs. I shared something I noticed about the New Testament church: These Christians spent a lot of time together, and that togetherness became a source of strength and told a story to the those watching the Christians.
In passages like Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35, we see Christians not only worshiping together, but actively involved in living out their faith. Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, captures something that Eugene Peterson would summarize this way—
“Christians are a community of people who are visible together at worship but who remain in relationship through the week in witness and service.”
This was not just Christians helping Christians, but Christians helping all the people in their communities. It was Christians who formed the first:
- Blind asylums
- Medical dispensaries
- Elderly care home
- Feeding programs for the poor
And this caught the notice of everyone. Aristides wrote to Emperor Hadrian about the Christians—
“They help those who offend them, making friends of them; do good to their enemies. They don’t adore idols; they are kind, good, modest, sincere, they love one another; don’t despise widows; protect the orphans; those who have much give without grumbling to those in need. When they meet strangers, they invite them to their homes with joy, for they recognize them as true brothers…. When a poor man dies, if they become aware, they contribute according to their means for his funeral; if they come to know that some people are persecuted or sent to prison or condemned for the sake of Christ’s name, they put their alms together and send them to those in need. If they can do it, they try to obtain their release. When a slave or a beggar is in need of help, they fast two or three days, and give him the food they had prepared for themselves, because they think that he too should be joyful….”
The Apostle Paul challenges followers of Jesus to constantly be growing in the outward demonstrations of our faith: to live our lives worthy of God’s calling, to get along with others, and to be making every effort to keep the bond on unity (see Ephesians 4:1-3).
With this in mind I have to ask myself: Am I doing this in my home town? Is there a strength and a story of Christ’s love that is told in my unity with other Christians? Am I helping to address the needs in Cedar Springs? What are people saying about Jesus because of my unity and service with other Christians?