Love is the greatest apologetic.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Here we see two worldviews collide, naturally the pagan culture promoted survival of the fittest by looking inwards first and outward if necessary. Even the Jews interpreted ‘love your neighbour’ as only needing to love your fellow Jew, allowing everyone else to be ignored. Yet here we see the early church living counter cultural lives by the way they loved each other and showed love to their community. It was this selfless, other-centred love that Jesus taught and demonstrated on the cross that these believers were living out through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I feel often we play a game of make-believe when we interact with other Christians, where we quickly abandon honesty and messiness for a façade and mask of how we believe we should act. It’s no coincidence that the Greek word for actor is hypocrite. Now yes, there is a time to keep our honesty hidden and a time to share especially when we are confronted with someone we find difficult to love. But we can quickly find that we are trying to cover up every aspect of our lives rather than be exposed in the life-changing community of the church.
Something I found helpful in understanding this was when some young adults commented on how much they loved spending time at our house, because it was so real. Truth is, we tried to keep our house open as much as possible, but when people arrive announced our house is going to look like a garbage dump with the mess of 4 young boys everywhere. Now, if we were aware they were coming we would do our best to hide what our house honestly looked like most of the time behind a façade that would not last very long. This got me thinking; about how we try to show people how our place looks maybe 5% of the time rather than the 95%…
Sharing our lives with people is very messy, because people are messy, but the Gospel has called us to open ourselves up to the messiness of other people. What we have in this passage is a description of the greatest apologetic we can show the world and that is the way we love one another as a church, not just on Sundays but throughout the week. Paul said it like this ‘we loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too (1Thess 2:8).’ Notice the two-fold response to the gospel here (1) sharing the word and (2) sharing their lives. We tick the box of ‘sharing the word’ so easily, but how are we at sharing our lives? It is easy to get caught up in the ideology of ’survival of the fittest’ but Jesus has called us to be other-centred. So in love invite people into the messiness of our lives, people want to see a love and care that is genuine and after 2000 years nothing has changed, we still crave love and genuineness and our homes are the best place to start.
Head: This passage is a wonderful description (not a prescription) of Christians captivated by the gospel.
Heart: Look back over the last 30 days. Have you been living a self-centred ‘survival of the fittest’ life? Or a gospel saturated other-centred life?
Hands: How can you start today by inviting someone into your home and create a regular culture of hospitality?
Prayer: Father, thank you for adopting me into your kingdom, that when I was your enemy, our love made a way and not only brought me into your kingdom, but made me your child. Father, as your child help me to reflect you to those around me. Help me to open my home and help strangers and neighbours become friends and family. Help me to love others as you have loved me.
A song to listen to: You Are My King
Ben Harvey Adelaide Presbyterian Church