The beginning of the book of Acts describes a beautiful picture.
The early church lived in a time of Roman dominance. Since the Caesars of Rome felt that they were gods, they didn’t take kindly to anyone or anything that could possibly threaten that status.
Christians claimed to worship another God, an unseen God which gave them strength from within. History books tell us that in order to put a stop to people worshipping any being other than the Roman Caesar, tremendous persecution was applied.
This ranged from the very least being that the Christians lost their jobs and everyone was told that if they were found to be helping them, they would also lose their jobs. The hope was social isolation, inability to work, and hunger would drive them to denounce their faith in Christ and return their loyalty to the emperor.
When this didn’t work, more severe punishments such as throwing them to the lions in the arena, having their limbs torn apart, or be crucified were amongst other punishments common at the time meant to deter anyone who was even considering becoming a Christian to run the other way.
To the dismay of the Roman emperor, these horrific acts didn’t seem to deter the growth of Christianity at all. In fact, if anything it grew more during these troubling times. There are many historical and theological reasons for this; I don’t have time to go into all of those. One of the reasons I want to focus on today is the love of the church during this time of trials and tribulation. Acts 4:32-36 gives us a peek into what the early church looked like.
It describes a scene of everyone helping one another. Greed was put aside and love replaced it. The early Christians saw themselves as a big family. At times one would be blessed with material possessions and at times another. They shared freely so that never was there a time when anyone was in need.
The Bible tells us that as the world watched this love where they took care of one another, watched as they fellowshipped and carried each other’s burdens, and watched as they felt joy even when their lives were being tortured – they flocked to the church in large numbers wanting to know their secret to love and joy in a world which was otherwise filled with such selfishness and greed.
Today, we don’t find ourselves against a backdrop of persecution, but we certainly find ourselves against a backdrop of hard times. As in the early days, the temptation is to hoard and shut our doors, not knowing if our turn is next so we better be prepared.
Every man for himself. Blame the government if our needs aren’t met! Yet, the early church members touch
James 2:14-19 has these words to say about us when we speak about our faith in Christ but turn our eyes away from those hurting around us: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? So too, faith by itself, if it does not result in action is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that God is one. Good for you! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
Each of us knows someone who has been affected by this time of Corona. Perhaps it is our relative, our house helper, our employee, our tenants, our landlord, our boss… the list goes on. This time is a challenge to us to put our love into action.
The early church challenges us to give in times of hurt. The book of James reminds us that faith without works is dead. God speaks to us and tells us to love one another, not just in word but in deed. Do you know someone who has worked hard and deserves to be paid? Pay them! Do you know someone who is suffering due to their inability to work? Give them food. Do you know someone is cold as winter approaches? Give them clothes or a blanket.
My friends, this is a chance for us to rise up, like the early church! Will we continue to only preach about Jesus or will we allow His Spirit to live through us and help those around us? This is a time to put our love into action. Will we rise to the occasion? The change starts with you and the two or three that you can help.
*Ashley Thaba is a popular motivational speaker, author and the Producer of a hit TV show offering practical advice to strengthen families and improve marriages! Episodes of her show can be downloaded from her website – www.ashleythaba.com.You can view some of her work on her YouTube channel: Ashley Thaba. You can buy two of her books, Dive In and Conquering the Giants, on her website. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook at: Talking with the Thabas