By Pat Byers
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:44-47
I remember the first time I was in the same room with a group of people that I thought were so much more spiritually mature than me. I had just started an on-line Master’s degree at Spring Arbor University. Part of the program involved attending week-long intensive classes. There I was sitting in the same room with 100 or so of these spiritual giants. Some were pastors; some were missionaries; others were leaders in business or not-for-profit organizations. Our speaker for the week was a world-renowned author, teacher and lecturer. Then, there was me. I was sure I did not belong. Somehow, I had tricked them all into allowing me to be there.
As the week-long class proceeded, I began to realize that all of us had, in a sense, “faked” our way in. We were each broken, beaten down, worn out people who were all on a journey towards Jesus. As members of this intensive class, we rallied around one another and became a community. We became a family that recognized that we were on an equal plane. Even though we had accomplished different things in life, we came to understand that God saw us all the same. Now, three years later, I sincerely miss these wonderful people I only saw a few times face-to-face. A connection was definitely made that week three years ago.
I believe, in many ways that equality and community are synonymous. True community happens when people can see eye-to-eye, work together and love one another by putting aside their own desires, for the desires of others. It is not always about getting along, but it is about work ing through the differences and “Bearing one another in love” Ephesians 4:2. We do not realize how tough living this type of love is, until we try to do it.
The church described in Acts 2 is an example of equality and community. The members of this group gave of their resources, set aside their differences, broke bread together and met each other’s needs. They built one another up to comprise the best community they could be.
It seems that this word, equality, especially in American history has come to be used only when talking about political rights or how we treat those who are different than we are. I have a feeling if we were able to find a way to interact more like the church described in Acts 2, we might not have so many problems with race, gender or other differences. I have a feeling if we were to find ways to practice the presence of the living Christ in community, loving one another, as we have been called to do in scripture, we may find equality comes a little more naturally.
I do not claim to have any corner on these concepts or thoughts. In fact, even as I write this, certain relationships in which I have probably not treated others in ways I would like to be treated come to mind. The point, though, is that we might all use these challenges to move beyond the place we presently find ourselves to a place that is better, or more. Perhaps equality comes when we finally find it in ourselves to forgive or be forgiven. Perhaps it comes when we face the fact we have been “faking” our way through, ending up in crowds of which we do not feel we can be an equal part. Then our Lord brings us to the realization that there is a place where we are always welcome, always accepted. That place is within the church, a community of believers who see God for who he is and who see each other for who they are. And we see that everyone else is welcome there too!
Pat Byers lives in Wabash, Indiana, and attends Wabash Friends Church where he serves as the part-time Worship pastor. He also works for Western Yearly Meeting as the part-time Director of Christian Education. He enjoys having the opportunity to play his guitar and hang out with some wonderful young people. He and his wife, Sara, have four children.