We Need Each Other
When all is going well, when we have no acute needs, it is easy to feel self-sufficient. We may even justify our aloofness by noting how far we live from each other, how busy our schedules are, how stable life is. But sometimes events conspire to remind us that “no man is an island,” that we do need each other and that it is such a privilege to have others in our lives who truly care about us!
When we consider the early days of the church, we might think we are reading about an alien world. For whatever reasons – Pentecost visitors extending their stay in Jerusalem; excommunication from Jewish society, etc. – early disciples were converted into a poverty-stricken fellowship. But as that poverty is recounted, Luke also tells of the interconnectedness and generosity of this newfound spiritual community:
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Ac 2:44-46).
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common … Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need” (Ac 4:32).
I know I have read this, even preached and taught on it numerous times and emphasized that we need to have the same love for and generosity toward one another. I have usually said something like, “This is not generally the case in the United States, but if things were to change we need to be prepared to respond in kind.” In the midst of prosperity, all we can do is imagine what things might be like in destitution.
But I remarked to someone recently that this coronavirus crisis might bring such passages to reality. The idea of making real sacrifices to care for each other doesn’t seem so farfetched. We have people laid off; many businesses will likely fail; it may be that one of our members gets COVID-19.
Are we prepared in our hearts for this?
“Out there,” in the non-social-distanced world, there are people already bravely risking their well-being for others. Hospital staffs, of course, are on the front lines, but police officers, EMTs, postal workers and other “essential” employees are exposed in the execution of their jobs. But we must be ready to step in if spiritual duty calls and our brothers or sisters need help.
When we are first introduced to Barnabas he has distinguished himself as the very embodiment of sacrificial service. Barnabas “having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Ac 4:37). Don’t pass by that too quickly. Land is a precious commodity, especially to a Jew. We can get emotionally attached to property as an investment, an inheritance, a lifetime of memories, a connection to our upbringing, etc., but Jews considered it the tangible expression of Abrahamic promise. Luke does not share the details of Barnabas’ tract of land, but we can rest assured that it was an unusually magnanimous gift. The apostles were so impressed that they nicknamed him “Son of Encouragement.”
I would like to think that all of us at Centreville would respond with generosity, compassion and gratitude if we were called upon to truly sacrifice for each other. If things keep going the way they are, we just might get that chance.