"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." Acts 2:42 ESV
In these last few months we (at Redentor Church of Christ) have been studying the book of Acts. At the beginning, I took my time in Acts chapter 2; it has always caught my attention when the believers began with their community. They were people that were very different, but were of the same mind. While reading different versions of chapter 2, I found that the ESV used the word "devoted" and I liked that because it means that we are made up of a family not only because of God's choice and adoption, but also because of the devotion and decisions we make "to be family".
"To be family" resounds like an echo in my ears, because what does it mean to be family?
There is a distinction between being "in a family" and "being family." To be family means that I wasn't just born into it, it means that I decided to be part of this family. And so the focus changes when it is my choice and I act on that choice.
I wonder, what is family for you, for me or for others?
Well, some might say that is the place that I love and am loved. Or it is the people I live with and take care of. There are others who would say, "It's the people who are there for me", "It's my mom, dad, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and grandparents", "My friends are my family", "family means loyalty".... Absolutely all of us have an idea of what family is and what family should be. When we apply this to the family of Christ, let's choose to "be family", loving without limits, caring for one another, sharing what we have, embracing one another, encouraging, helping, forgiving, supporting, speaking the truth in love, carrying each other's burdens...
Starting with the ones that are around us, we can love differently, even loving the ones that are different that I am, the ones that I wouldn't normally see as family.
The book of Acts not only focuses on the growth of God's family and actions of it's members in the community, but it also shows us how God entrusted such amazing news to beings like us, common and ordinary people! It's about taking the Good News to all the world. What a Great Commission! I'm sure it seemed great to the apostles who stood perplexed and a bit paralyzed as Jesus ascended to heaven, Philip Yancey, in his book, “Vanishing Grace" illustrates this better by saying,
“I imagine Luke smiling as he tells in the coming years about the comical scene of 11 anxious followers stretching their necks, looking intently into the clouds, meanwhile some angels ask the obvious question: " What are you doing looking into the sky?". Luke omits what this question might imply: "Didn't He tell you to get going? Well, Get going! Start moving! Now you are the protaganists of the drama."
They were the protaganists and now that role is ours. We are in this world with a greater purpose than just to survive; I believe we can make a difference on this earth as Jesus did. We are to be Jesus on this earth! It seems like a tall order to fill, but remember we have his teachings and stories written down for us and we have the place to start: in intimacy with the Father. I want to pause here a moment because I can't "be family" or take the Good News if I don't intimately know the One who is sending me or if I don't know the One who is the head of the family.
I can be in community and do what is humanly possible, but can I truly love them without being connected to Love?
During this time of quarantine, we have learned to value community more. We miss hugs, going out to eat and share time face to face...But I have also noticed that I was more used to being in community, talking and listening rather than being alone and in silence. This prolonged silence comes with a cost for me, though. It's been months since I've been able to see many people, congregate at church, take the Lord's Supper with others on Sunday; It's been months of seeing loved ones through a screen. But what about with God? It requires silence to listen to Him, and in the silence, it seems He has been more intentional to reach me. I have felt loneliness and loss of community lately and yet God has been there constantly saying, "I am here".
He reminds me of his presence in a beautiful sunset or sunrise. For example, yesterday morning I saw a spectacular sunrise and as the rest of the day turned cloudy and gray, I realized that this sunrise had been a special gift for me.
There is no loneliness that cannot be penetrated by His presence.
But for that to happen, we must take time with Him. For me, my terrace has been the place for this. God has gifted me with beautiful sunsets of every spectacular color and in each one it shows His creative seal, His kind look, His embrace and His comfort. I imagine Jesus and His disciples enjoyed these kind of gifts and many more. This connection they had with the Father allowed them to walk this earthly journey with the strength that comes from having the best company. The works of the Holy Spirit continue to be written in our own lives. Let us only choose to "be family" in Christ, reaching out to the unknown and taking time to be in intimacy with the Father.