My dad has been teaching a class on the book of John at my congregation the last several weeks. I'm not actually in the class, but living in his house I get all his brilliant insights anyway. Which is rather cool. :)
Anyways, he brought up something about John 14:2 that I had never realized. The King James Version translates this verse as "In my Father's house are many mansions" and the New American Standard says "many dwelling places." However, the most accurate translation is that of the NIV and a few other versions: "many rooms." There are a lot of rooms in our Father's house, but it's one house.
I'd never thought about that before, and I really like the idea. Your house is where you feel the safest. Your family lives in your house. I like the idea of all the saved in Heaven eating around one gigantically long dinner table. That's just a really beautiful image to me. But as I thought harder about it, it really got me thinking about relationships within the church. Earth is all about getting ready to go to Heaven, right? Well, could I live in the same house as the entire church? Or even my entire congregation? Do I have that familial relationship? Are we all that close?
If you have a minute (and if you have the time to sit and read this, I know you have a minute), go to Acts 2 and read the whole chapter. This is a HUGE chapter. You have the Holy Spirit coming on the Apostles, Peter preaching the first gospel sermon, and the part we're going to look more closely at right now: the first description of the behavior of the Lord's church. Take a look back at verses 44-47a:
"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of hear
praising God and having favor with all the people."
How do we get to be as close enough to share a house? What happens when we are that close? Let's examine the early church to find out.
They were together. Not "the kids were over there" and "the adults were over here" and "the young families were over there." They were together.
Don't get me wrong. I think it's great to have activities that help us bond with people in our age groups that are dealing with similar situations to ours. That's valuable. But if I'm a teenager and I only know the youth group, that's an issue. I'm missing out on the wisdom they have to offer. I know I personally need to work on that, and I'd be willing to bet a lot of teens do. However, in the same way, if I'm an adult and I don't know any of the teens, that's just as much of an issue. Far too often teens get a bad rep for not connecting with the rest of the congregation, but adults don't make any effort to know the teens. (Alright. Getting off my soap box.) Whatever is keeping the church apart, whether it be age or difference of opinion or simply different life situations, we can't let that get in the way. We have to be together.
They had all things in common. I love this part. Look back at the second part of verse 44 and 45: they "had all things in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." The idea here is, "If you need it, it's yours." If I have a truck and somebody needs it, he doesn't even have to ask. It's his truck too. Unfortunately, we live in an extremely selfish society. In a world so full of "me", it's hard to hand over our possessions or even our time to somebody else that willingly. Could you babysit for a family at your church and not even expect payment? It's something to think about. We don't just have to give to the Lord's work; we have to give of our means to each other.
They were together in their worship. Take a look at verse 46: they were "day by day continuing with one mind in the temple." I'll never forget an illustration a Bible class teacher gave me in seventh grade. He drew a triangle on the board, labeling one point as God and the other two as Christians. Then he moved both of the "Christians" closer to "God," and this movement inevitably brought them closer to each other. The same is true in the real church. Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to forsake the assembly of the saints, because it encourages us. If we're not attending worship, we're getting farther and farther away from God and consequently, farther from each other.
They were sincere in their fellowship. Still verse 46: "Breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart." They sincerely enjoyed being together. When was the last time you faked your way through a conversation with a brother or sister you didn't really want to have to talk to? I'm extremely guilty of this, and I need to work at it. 1 Peter 1:22 tells us that since we've been obedient and purified ourselves for love, we need to fervently love one another from the heart. FROM THE HEART! This fake love stuff isn't going to cut it. We have to really, earnestly love every one of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even if we don't quite click with them. Even if they annoy us. We need to get over that. We have to SINCERELY love one another. And not only that, but we get to fellowship! What better way to grow closer? (Note: it doesn't say "potluck to potluck"-- it says "house to house." Just a thought!)
The community noticed. Here's the kicker: all this isn't normal human behavior. That's why God mentioned it in His Word in the first place. It's not normal to be this unified, to be this generous, to be this loving. It's not normal for people to be this close. That's why they gained "favor with all the people." Something clicked with the people around them. They realized something was different, and they liked it. Not surprisingly, the next part of the verse reads, "And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." By simply treating each other the way God wanted them to, the early Christians successfully evangelized.
It's a beautiful image, isn't it? Sharing everything, sincerely loving, eating together, worshipping together, doing everything together. A family. If we do all these things on earth... how much greater will it be in Heaven?