Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Gospel of Life

The book of Acts is devoted to discussing the first 35-30 years of the Christian community. It focuses on St. Peter and St Paul and their work in spreading the church from a community of 120 into a network of believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire. These two men move around the ancient world, and wherever they go, we see one thing in common – they are doing things to get themselves in trouble.

They were constantly getting into trouble because they were promoting a kingdom with different values than the world around it. They threw the places that they lived in upside down. They caused riots. They were arrested. They lived in ways that made people scratch their heads. These stories are filled with actions. These early Christians were not passive.

In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit comes, we find that the church is characterized by the way that these Christians lived. We see the same thing in chapter 4. They lived in community; giving to each other, providing for each other’s needs. They sold things they didn’t need in order for their leaders to use these resources for the greater good of the community. They appointed people who would be responsible to make sure that the widows were taken care of. Their belief in Jesus has changed the way they live their lives.

They believed that Jesus had come to bring life, and everywhere they went the brought this life with them. Healings, feeding and providing for the poor, the empowerment of women, racial reconciliation were all part of the early churches ministry. The Gospel that the early Christians lived out was so powerful that it could not be ignored. It was so unsettling to the people around them, that people were afraid that the Christians were looking to completely destroy the culture of the Roman Empire; and they were right.

We are the descendents of Peter and Paul. We have been given the task of spreading the Gospel to the world. We have been charged with the task of following in the footsteps of these active, passionate followers of our risen Savior. The question is now how are we going to act? How are we going to spread the message that Jesus has been raised from the dead and now the world can live?

How will we react as a church to the economic crisis that we are now in the middle of? How will we respond to the crisis in the Middle East where both sides are guilty of hating each other? How will we react to the violence that is in our communities? To the children who are growing up with out a good family to support them? How will we react to those who are lonely?

Will ’09 be the year we bring them the Gospel message of Life? I hope so!

9 comments:

Allison said...

Curious - do you think we are to live in the same way the Acts church did as far as sharing goods and community living? A friend and I had a discussion regarding community living and she felt as though the Acts church was simply a model based on their culture but that perhaps our culture would expect something different. Thoughts?

dan said...

i agree that the Acts church is a model within its own cultural setting, we should look to establish the principles they lived by and then apply to our own culture.

Personally, I'm a fan of communal living.

What do you think it would look like for Christians to live by the same principles based off the Acts model in its own culture?

Allison said...

Can you re-word the question?

dan said...

How does the Acts model translate into today's culture?

Allison said...

I think it can be carried out on many different levels from a little commitment to entire commitment. For instance, one of the speakers at NYWC talked about being on a level with the elders at his church that if one of them died, the others promised to financially take care of their family. Tony Campolo talked about wanting to give away his retirement fund, saying that he wasn't trusting God and others to provide for his needs. (These were the types of things my friend was saying she wasn't so sure was God's intent by the Acts 2 church.) Shane Claiborne brings people into his home and clothes and feeds them. People taking care of each other. Sharing the wealth of what we have with others who may not have what we have, and vice versa. I think the idea of living more in community and less in individualized and isolated worlds. Learning to share what we have - community meals and gardens, providing food, shelter, and clothing for friends in need, understanding the church less as a place to worship God as an individual and more as a place for corporate worship. I don't know....

dan said...

(sorry I wrote a book)
no that's good stuff!

the last little bit was the best part! church is not a place for coming to worship as an individual, but it is a community! What does James say is acceptable worship? Feeding the poor and widows...that's totally not what someone would expect him to say today.

I agree with you there are levels of commitment, but those who are totally committed force us to ask questions about the way we live. Claiborne would never consider saying everybody should live like he does, but possible we could learn some lessons from his example.

Tony C's comment is interesting to me. I love it and the principle of it. It really comes to the heart of the issue, the church comes together and supports itself. If we are all equal and love each other as we love ourselves it isn't right and fair for some people in the church to eat like kings and some to go without, for some to drive BMW's and some drive broken down Chevy's, for some to live in mansions without any concerns while others get evicted because they cannot afford to pay rent.

The response to this last paragraph is that "I have worked harder than 'that' person. It wouldn't be fair for if we both had the same level." to which I would respond, is what God did for you fair? This seems to be the logic in Leviticus 19 where God gives a bunch of commands including feeding the poor. The says I'm the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt" We're supposed to have a different view of the world...the take care of yourself is for pagans.

Allison said...

So how do we actually live out corporate worship on a Sunday morning? Are we not currently teaching our churches that Sunday mornings are for the individuals?

dan said...

I think the first problem is Sunday morning. 1.) We have made worship about Sunday morning as opposed to a lifestyle. 2.) What we do on Sunday morning supports individualistic worship...the language we use, the style, & application all focus on You (singular)

If we want to make worship less individualistic, we need to break the idol that Sunday morning worship services have become.

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