As Mae West famously quipped, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Take your short life and make it count.
Jesus, in 33 years, seemed not to accomplish very much. His little band of followers was terrifically ordinary, despised by the world, and short on courage. Jesus himself wrote no books and began no rebellion. No doubt the Pharisees and the Romans both were fairly smug to get Jesus out of the picture. Well, that’s over. Of course, they underestimated him a tad. One life, fully lived, epic. You protest that Jesus had an edge, being God and all. True. But he left his mission in the hands of those ragtag followers, eleven scaredy-cat fishermen and a handful of ostracized women. A team about the size of a pair of small groups in a suburban church changed the world. What’s your small group done lately?
That was snarky; I apologize. But there is unquestionably a disconnect between the lifestyle of the Acts 4 church and the post-modern American congregation. The early church keenly felt its life-or-death, do-or-die situation. To follow Christ was downright dangerous, and not to be done lightly.
As it has been for every persecuted generation since, there was a heightened sense of urgency linked with the call to Christ. So when the believers in Acts 4 share all that they have, they are not attempting to set up a communist nation, they are circling the wagons. They pray not in regularly scheduled, reserved meetings, but in desperation, and the place where they pray is shaken. When they ladle soup to the needy, it is to their own flesh and blood. Service is not tacked-on, it is vocation.
What do we treasure above all else? Scan our checkbooks and our calendar, and you will see. We prize comfort, stimulation, cleverness, amenities, programs, inspiration. We do not give until it hurts. We do not pour out our lives for people who quite frankly make us uncomfortable. As the Archbishop of Canterbury once said, “Wherever the Apostle Paul went, there was a riot or a revival. Wherever I go, they serve tea.” Membership in a church is rather like membership in a country club, one with very nice teapots. Perhaps it should be more like membership in a gym; we expect to sweat, to strain, to run an extra mile.