“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:42-45 )
About this verse, the Confession says, “The first church in Jerusalem put Jubilee into practice by preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and sharing possessions. Other early churches shared financially with those in need.“ The portrait of the early church is very important in the Confession. Why else would this passage from Acts chapter 2 pop up so often that I feel it is “haunting” me!
From the very beginnings of the Anabaptist movement the communal nature of the early church was seen as a model for living in fellowship with one another. However, just like persecution disrupted the early church, persecution caused the Anabaptists/early Mennonites to flee to other countries and nations to find a safe and free place to worship. They carried with them the ideas of mutual support and accountability, just as the early church did in Jerusalem and as it spread through the known world in the years following Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
But while the underlying notion survived, the depth and breadth of the practice was spread thin. When believers multiple in number, so does the amount of needy people. Those who are poor in spirit and in pocketbook hold tightly to faith and the promise of succor it brings.
In the Mennonite faith – and in other faith’s I am sure – there are moving tales and success stories of people who are helped and lifted out of poverty and despair. But for every “happy ending story” there are at least to other sad stories. It is not that people of good conscience are not doing anything, but the need is so great and the resources so sparse.
But there is another darker reason for this disparity. Our lives now are so complicated, filled with “things”. What is now considered the “basics” would have been luxuries in another era. We are caught in this cycle of acquiring and the need to sustain the level we have reached. And this may be bad enough, but when we look at others and see how “needy” and without resources as compared to us, we assume there is not hope for them.
This bothers me, gentle reader, that our definition of “making it” is so far above the reality throughout the world. I don’t think about and consider this notion very often, and maybe that makes me more a part of the problem than the solution. That is not an easy admission to make.
May you gentle reader share with those who have need, reserving for yourself only what is far and right so that others may have what is fair and right also. Selah!