Agape Based Christian Community: Acts 4:34-35
“34) For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35) and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭34‬-‭35‬
In the development of Christian community, agape love translated into action. It happened inwardly toward fellow believers and outwardly toward the world. In the process it dignified people. They quickly took on more value than monetary possessions.
It seems that the sale of excess lands and houses was voluntary and it may have been a fulfillment of the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21. He turned away grieved because he was one who owned much property. He valued much property more than God or people.
It appears that this sense of agape based Christian community emerged in opposition to the Jewish practice of exploiting people for personal profit. The Jewish business model would often gain wealth by charging excessive interest on loans while quickly seizing the property of widows, orphans and the poor for lack of payment. The practice perpetuated poverty. Meanwhile, the Jewish merchants would exploit strangers and aliens visiting Jerusalem for festivals with excessive prices on everything. It can be assumed that Joseph and Mary paid a premium for their humble abode in the manger.
The tragic usury of Nehemiah 5:1-13 had become rampant within the Jewish nation again. As you read this shocking text, you discover it included the trafficking of the poor and needy. The rise of agape based Christian community in the first century led to the eradication of slavery, human trafficking, forced prostitution for debt payment and orphan exploitation.
A survey of the whole New Testament reveals that the early church stressed both caring for the poor and needy while at the same time stressing the development of a noble work ethic. James talked about faith taking action in the face of genuine needs. (James 2:14-26) Paul stressed dealing with exploiters and freeloaders by giving them a job so they could learn self sustainability. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-13; Ephesians 4:28) It takes both sides of the coin for agape based Christian community to thrive.
The development of agape based Christian community also prepared the early church for coming persecution and suffering. This allowed the church to endure severe stretches of persecution and injustice. This is the biblical recipe for the suffering church. We need to learn how to provide and care for one another.
As the modern church debates how to deal with social injustice, the answer is right before our eyes. Things will not change until we as Christians return to the model of agape based Christian community. Secular government and social welfare started as a biblical value, but they are not fueled by agape love. The world will never be able to replace the church.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global