The Church of Unfulfilled Promise

October 11th, 2007 • Category: Book of Acts
by Pastor Jeff

Today’s scripture: Acts 5:12-16 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Jeff Miner):

There is an old lawyers’ joke about the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum & Howe (which, if you pronounce it slowly, sounds like, “Do we cheat ‘em? And how!”) Not exactly the kind of law firm you would want to hire to represent you in time of need.

Today, I was joking around with our Church’s Minister of Communications (David Squire). We were joking about names for churches you never hear, but should. Its kind of fun to think of examples:

  • The Church of the Unfulfilled Promise
  • The Church of the Sleeping Dead
  • The Church of the Spiritually Arrogant, Uppity, and Superior!

I think it’s fair to say that, generally speaking, churches don’t have a particularly good reputation in our culture today. Ask the average person on the street what they think of churches, and most will say things like, “A bunch of hypocrites,” or “They just want my money,” or “Holier than thou.”

Given this, there is one phrase in today’s Scripture reading that jumps off the page at me. In verse 13, Luke tells us that “the people held them [the early Christians] in high esteem,” so much so that “none of the rest dared to join them” — not out of revulsion, but because they did not feel worthy.

Why were these early Christians held in such high esteem by the general public? The answer is obvious in the chapters we’ve read so far. The early Christians were, with a few notable exceptions, profoundly authentic. They were striving to live their faith holistically. Instead of focusing on putting on airs or condemning nonbelievers, they were focused on genuine personal transformation. The result was extraordinary acts of generosity, healing, and miracles.

When people look at our church — Jesus MCC — what do they see? We are far from perfect. But, as pastor, I sometimes get to see extraordinary acts that others aren’t aware of. Examples include:

  • A person who gave hours of his time to help an “extra-grace required” person sort out his personal financial mess and create a budget, even thought that other person was nasty about it.
  • Someone who quietly bought a recliner for a person who was very ill and needed a comfortable way to sleep without fully reclining.
  • Someone who took in someone else’s chronically ill cat when the owner passed away, even though she wasn’t a personal friend of the one who passed away — just a sister in Christ.
  • A person who went to another with whom he was very angry and quietly worked it through to reconciliation.

These are the kinds of examples of pure faith that our world longs to see. And when they see more of that kind of behavior coming from us Christians, instead of being repulsed, they will be powerfully drawn — in the same way we see in today’s Scripture reading. Did you notice the apparent “contradiction” in today’s reading? Verse 13 tells us that “none dared join them,” while verse 14 turns around and says, “Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women.”

I have no doubt that both were true. On the one hand, people were so awed by the sincerity of the faith of the early Christians, they felt they couldn’t ever personally achieve that level of spirituality — they dared not join them. On the other hand, what they were seeing was so compelling that many overcame their fear and did dare to join them — discovering the power of Christ to transform us.

Remember, powerful acts of love and generosity are virtually irresistible! That’s what our world longs to see in us.

Thought for the day: Am I living my faith — today, at work, at home, and among my friends — in a way that attracts or repulses people?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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