The recent rise in interest rates, as small as they were, has caused quite a panic over the last few weeks. On top of this, crypto currency has taken a fall and house prices are coming down. For some, these things will be bad news. But for some, these are actually good news items. That's the way an economy works. What's good for some people is bad for others. High-interest rates are terrible for those with large mortgages, but great for self-funded retirees! Low house prices are bad for those who want to sell, but great for those who want to buy. Yet here is what's interesting - people often only think of their own circumstances. A situation is often deemed good or bad depending on the way it affects "me".
The bottom line? We're often self-centred. Self-focussed. Selfishness is a very human trait. Grace is not a very natural state for humanity.
But the church must look different.
When the disciples were facing persecution, they stood firm in their beliefs and God did amazing things:
1The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
They faced imprisonment yet kept speaking the gospel and lives were changed. But behind the scenes, there was also a community that was growing and changing. The believers, once changed by the gospel, became a different community:
32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
This is a community that looked after each other's needs. They shared everything. And there were no needy people among them. None.
This is the way a Jesus-centred community should be. We may not go so far as to sell our properties and lay the proceeds at the feet of the church to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. But the time may come when we may need to do just that. As I watch the people in Ukraine at the moment, this is what is happening. People are giving up all they have to meet the needs of the people around them. People are providing funds from around the world to meet the growing needs of refugees. Of course, it is not just the church who are doing this. Many people are giving for these needs.
But for the church, this is to be our everyday character. Not just in a time of disaster. We are people who care about those in need always. We must continue to speak boldly the truth of Jesus because:
12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
We preach this gospel and then we are to live lives that reflect this gospel. We live as people who do not seek our own needs first, but the needs of others. We live as a community changed by the gospel we have been given, the gospel we preach.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gospel that has given us hope and life. As we share this gospel with others, help us to be bold and unafraid. Help us also to live a life as a community that reflects this gospel. May we live together as people with one heart and mind, claiming nothing for our own, but showing generous grace to all people, every day. Amen.