It’s interesting to look back at the early church to see how they overcame their struggles and differences. The church was experiencing tremendous growth and this meant they had to get organized. They would make a decision about what it means to be a caring community of faith. In Acts 6:1-6, we see the people coming together to align their hearts and intentions with the heart of Jesus and it’s a beautiful example of what we still strive for in the church, today. I think there are three important things we can learn from the early church.
#1 EVERYONE IS A CHILD OF GOD
First of all, the church believed, that to be a family of faith, everyone should be seen as a child of God, regardless of their differences. Scripture says, “They came together and there were many people now who had needs.” There were the Hellenist Jews and the Hebrew Jews, who were all trying to be followers of Christ; and in the early church, the Hellenists complained, the Hebrew widows were getting more help than the others. There were struggles from the start with discrimination and prejudiced thinking.
Some things haven’t changed in the last 2,000 years. How easy it is to discriminate. How easy it is to be prejudiced. How easy it is to put labels on people. Liberal and conservative; Democrat and Republican; gay and straight; Catholic and Baptist; Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist; black, white, red, brown; we throw out labels and immediately, we pass judgment and make decisions. We become prejudiced against people. How should they be treated? What does it mean to say we are all the children of God?
#2 TREAT OTHERS WITH COMPASSION
Secondly, when they all came together, they decided that to be a family of faith, they would need to treat one another with a spirit of compassion. The word compassion means “to feel with.” They were reminded of all the ways in which Jesus showed compassion. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, fed the hungry because he led with a compassionate spirit. Compassion means we consider the needs of others and act accordingly.
#3 EVERYONE IS CALLED TO SERVE
Third, to be a family of faith, first and foremost, it means everyone is called to serve and make a difference. The early church had so many needs. They began to say, some of us need to preach, but not everybody needs to preach. Some people need to teach, but not everybody needs to teach. Some people need to collect food and alms; other people need to distribute food and alms. The church today continues to have many needs and our world desperately needs the message of Jesus Christ. When we all answer the call to serve, we are making the world a better place.