Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. – Acts 2:43-47
For those of us who are trying to live as followers of Jesus today, the Book of Acts sets a pretty high bar. The early Christian community was one marked by the extraordinary. Miraculous healings, people speaking in languages they did not know, voluntary redistribution of wealth so that everyone had enough, and the conversion of thousands of people who had every reason to be skeptical of the good news.
I’ve seen some pretty amazing things in my day, but I have to admit that it can be a little overwhelming to read the Bible’s description of those first years after Jesus’ resurrection. In the face of such an amazing community – seeing thousands convinced on the spot, healing the sick, raising the dead, and devoting themselves to an extremely high level of mutual support – my own efforts at being a disciple seem pretty weak.
It’s easy for me to feel inadequate, to wonder what I’m doing wrong. I’m tempted to judge myself. Am I not praying hard enough? Not generous enough? Not loving enough? When I really consider it, I know that I’m falling short on all three of these, and then some!
Yet, as I hold the matter in prayer, I am reminded that the Christian life is not about my own personal piety. I can’t earn an amazing, Spirit-filled community. This isn’t something people do; rather, it’s the motion of the Holy Spirit that inspires all beauty, truth, and power.
How can I, and the community that I belong to, prepare ourselves to receive this kind of life? Earlier in Acts 2, people ask Peter precisely this: Brothers, what should we do? What response is required of us now that we have heard the gospel message and come face to face with the resurrection? Peter’s response was simple: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What does it look like for me to repent? How is God calling me, and us as a community, to turn away from our old ways of thinking and behaving? What does it mean to embrace the kind of open-heartedness that allows the Holy Spirit to move and make the impossible possible?
Though I fall short in so many ways, I pray that God will have mercy on me, just as with the first Christians. Lord Jesus, send your Holy Spirit. Transform my life, change my heart and mind. Work signs and wonders in me.