The Common Way
We come to the cross individually. We leave the empty tomb in community. Jesus’ death and resurrection not only rescue us from our sins but offer us a new group of people that we can’t live without: the body of Christ called the church.
How does his resurrection turn us into that kind of community? It’s not easy. As Americans we are more connected than ever before. We post our public profiles for the world to see, yet we’re lonelier, more anxious, and more isolated than ever before. Senior adults live with an incredible sense of loss behind the walls of facilities full of activities. Even the groups that we join, from book clubs to Bible classes, promise togetherness. They rarely offer what most people need, a true community.
It’s a problem that’s been around since Genesis 3, mitigated even more today by our schedules and individual preferences. We were created for community, but we’ve been torn apart by sin. What is there to do? Or is there anything to do at all?
Enter the early church. Growing out of the soil of first century Judaisms, the early followers of the Way held several core things in common with each other. If you read through Acts 1-12, you notice that it reads like a charter document for a new organization forming in the community. This is not your average non-profit or small business venture. This is the work of God that is only made possible because of these nine characteristics. Each one is something they have in common. The Greek word is koine. It’s the root for our word for communication and company. Sometimes we call it “fellowship,” but it was so much more. They held these things in common.
- Persistent people from all phases of life. They included everyone, especially the mentally and physically disabled. They network all throughout Jerusalem and communicate their message. (Acts 2:41-3:10)
- Provisions that are submitted to someone else’s authority (Acts 4:22-5:11). They place their possessions and property at the apostles’ feet so they can use it to extend this common life to others.
- Place of work and life (Acts 5:12-42). They committed to a neighborhood and a workplace. They were often one and the same. There they shared a meal like a potluck dinner and provided for each other.
- Person of Jesus Christ. The risen and exalted Jesus bounds them together (Acts 1:1-25). He became their parent and example for brothers and sisters who were moving throughout the world.
- Pressure from insiders and outsiders. Suffering was part of the journey. Sometimes it happened because they felt resistance from opponents. Many times they simply suffered because that’s the way life is. Other times they faced internal conflicts. They learned to use all of it. (Acts 12:1-25)
- Pursuit of common interests (Acts 8:4-9:31). This word in Acts is where we get our word for a hot or cold thermos. The temperature depends on the contents of the container. The church grew very passionate about their pursuit: to demonstrate God’s reign in Jesus Christ to the world. Most of the time they did this through service.
- Power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). When they came together, the whole place was shaken. Fire fell. Wind blew. It was just a sign to them that they could not do this on their own. God had to work, and he worked through the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. They testified in awe, wonder, and amazement.
- Performance of the message (Acts 6:1-8:3). Through people like Stephen and others, they proclaimed a common core set of beliefs that was the fabric of their community. They shared testimony of the gospel, and people responded.
- Promise of Jesus’ imminent return (Acts 3:11-4:21). They new that the end was near, and they lived like it. It gave them a sense of hopeful urgency to share their faith and to change their lives.
Over the next nine weeks, I invite you to pull up a chair to the table as we discuss a “Charter for the Common Way.” My prayer is that we too will learn to be this kind of community. Before Easter, we are all alone. But now we’re together. Come join us at the table.