Shouldn't it be easier?
“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all other creatures to the feast of Creation." -Wendell Berry
I'm reading through Acts this month. I'm always looking for new ways to refresh my views of community building and intentional living. I can't imagine what the disciples were feeling after Jesus left them. They arguably had just experienced the most transformative experience any human would physically experience for three years and now they were looking at each other...probably all quietly wondering "What's next? How do we invite others into this story?" Fortunately, Peter took his commissioning to heart and the church started to grow!
Acts 2:42 says "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
I feel like every other time I've heard the early church referenced in Acts 2 the focus has been on how nobody among them had need. This is a beautiful aspect of the early church - they shared in generosity so much that all their needs were met! But I was captured by the verses before that more during this reading. There were four things that distinguished this community:
1. They were devoted to a certain teaching.
2. They fellowshipped together.
3. They broke bread together.
4. They prayed together.
What's crazy about this list is that it is relatively "acultural" - it is not a unique four things to an early 1st century Jewish believer. These are four things I can do today with other people. Then why am I not doing these things more easily?
Devoted to teaching - I would rather come up with my own truth. My heart sometimes doesn't want to hear the truth of the Gospel when it offends me or challenges me. If I don't let others challenge me then I don't have to worry about feeling like I'm failing.
Fellowship - Actually, I'm good with this one...until someone hard shows up. Why do I have to fellowship with people who are different/difficult/obnoxious/needy.... Shouldn't fellowship be easier? I'd rather stick to people that make me comfortable.
Breaking bread - I love sharing meals with people! Too bad I have ten million other things to do this week...another dinner? I'm too exhausted to go and make small talk...and they want us to bring something?
Prayer - If I ask someone to pray with me that means I have to be honest with myself. I have to actually acknowledge my need for God. I could tell them surface requests...about my friends grandmother...but what if they ask about what's going on in MY life?
Our sinful nature pushes against authentic community because it means sacrifice...uncomfortable moments...admitting need...
It means we leave behind our self sufficiency - our perfect world of control where everything functions for our good, and we start to live for a good beyond ourselves. I don't want to make time for these four things because it means I'm giving up time for one singular thing - me.
The problem with going through life only looking out for myself is that I won't draw closer to God's Kingdom without others. I am not a part of a Kingdom that invites me to set up my own corner. This might sound like I'm passive-aggressively dragging introverts through the mud...but don't miss the broader point: God has made each of us uniquely to fit into a greater story of community - however big or small that role is - embrace it, move toward community, not away from it. What does it look like to partake in those four things this week with your community? How can you invite others to help you do this?