Whenever I read this verse and the rest Acts 2 about the early Christian church, I am struck by how counter-cultural they were in spending their money and time. The phrase “had all things in common” is particularly striking given the fact that these early Christians came “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) and spoke all different languages (Acts 2:6-11). The power of the gospel gave them a common identity that superseded their different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. When I read it, I am also challenged with the question of what this means for the current Christian church. Are we modern Christians called to replicate this model of generosity? And if so, how?
Since becoming a deaconess a year ago, I have been blessed to see how the Diaconate* ministry is one way we live out this radical Acts 2 community; it allows the congregation of Redeemer to share what they have with those among us who are in need. The money given by the congregation to the mercy fund allows the Diaconate to assist those who have lost their jobs or who are going through other difficult situations. That assistance often includes helping with rent, food, transportation, and counseling.
The Christian community described in Acts did not just provide financially but also cared for one another spiritually and emotionally (Acts 2:46-47). Likewise, when people are assisted by the Diaconate, this relationship is not merely a financial one but involves holistic caring for the person’s spiritual, emotional, and physical needs.
Each congregant under Diaconate care works with two deacons and/or deaconesses, and we have the privilege of getting to know our brothers and sisters, praying with them, and encouraging them with the truths from scripture. Many of the congregants I’ve worked with are in positions where they have no one else to turn to and have come to the end of their resources. Some have understandably questioned where God is in the midst of their suffering. It is a beautiful thing to help them pay their rent and buy food when they didn’t know how they would make it through another month. And when they want to thank me, it is my privilege to point out that this help is due to the generosity of the church body and, ultimately, God. This support reinforces that everything we have is out of God’s love for us.
Serving on the Diaconate has been a reminder that but for the grace of God I could be in the same position as those I am serving. I am just as sinful and as needy for God’s grace as they are. In spite of our different backgrounds and circumstances, they are my brothers and sisters, and we have all things in common due the good news that came through Jesus dying on the cross.
* The Diaconate is Redeemer’s ministry of mercy addressing the needs of those in our church family experiencing hardship. Our service is our response to God’s calling to be merciful, to love and care for one another in practical ways. If you need practical assistance, please call the Diaconate Helpline, (212) 726-1334.