You may have seen this quote at the end of a blog post, by the social media sharing icons. If you came to my house, you’d hear it recited among my children as they try to weasel a toy from an unwilling sibling. In truth, though, sharing is an expression of caring for others, and the passage in Acts 2:42-45 is the purest example of true community that I have found.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
This is a picture of the early church. It is one of my favorite sections of scripture, because I believe this is how God designed us to live with each other: together, receiving and reflecting God’s love to the world through simple acts of devotion and generosity.
Today, we live in a society that promotes self-preservation and promotion. Earlier this week, I wrote about celebrating others’ achievements, but it takes an extra measure of faith to share our resources and not just our words of support. As a blogger, I have been so impressed by other, successful bloggers, who have used their platform as a means to care for those marginalized and forgotten, for Syrian refugees and victims of the sex trade both here and abroad, for orphans and widows.
These influencers have discovered that success, in and of itself, does not bring happiness. Assembling a tribe of followers devoted only to their words does not bring about true change in the world. So, they put their money and their time where their mouths are, and they invite their community of readers to join them.
Take, for example, Glennon Doyle Melton’s non-profit, Together Rising. Melton is the voice behind the immensely popular (and sometimes polarizing) blog, Momastery, where she writes the hard, honest, and sometimes hilarious truth about her life. Together Rising consists of Love Flash Mobs and Holiday Hands. Love Flash Mobs are designed to raise an enormous amount of money in 24-48 hours, with a maximum contribution of $25 per person (so no one can get a big head:)). The money goes to nominated members of the Momastery community who are facing difficult circumstances: cancer, ALS, homeless and pregnant, child in need of prosthetic limbs, etc. A goal is set, and it is always met. Here are the results of a Love Flash Mob from last year:
Results of Angels & Warriors Love Flash Mob May 14, 2014:
$100,000 in 6.5 hours. $150,000 in 13 hours. Total in 24 hours: $162,952.53.
More than 8,000 donations. Average donation: roughly $20.
All five families will get what they needed from us.
Beautiful. Holiday Hands happened this week; the needs of 569 families were met in three hours. You can head here to read more about it and the results. Amazing!
Together Rising is just one of many such community-minded outreaches. If you are ready to step away from the consumerism of Christmas this year and give gifts that last, I will be assembling a list of excellent organizations you can contribute to on behalf of a loved one, or in place of traditional gifts this holiday season.
Practically speaking, though, how can we live together and share what we have with those in need? How can we build true community right where we are? Since I started this series, I have been struck by image after image of community in action all around me.
A Friend in Need Is a Friend In-Deed
The first came through Facebook almost two weeks ago. My friend Sarah’s husband needed to be hospitalized in the middle of the night for an escalating illness. With three small children fast asleep, she had to find someone to watch them. One of her friends happened to be active on Facebook at the time, and Sarah asked if she could please help them out- at 11:30pm. The friend came right over to stay with the children while Sarah rushed her husband to the hospital.
His stay became longer and more serious than they anticipated, and Sarah felt overwhelmed by the multiplying demands of both caring for her children and advocating for her husband during his ordeal. Friends and family chipped in with food, money, gas cards, and childcare to help lighten her load. You can read more about it in her own beautiful words here: http://milwaukee.citymomsblog.com/honest-talk/for-such-a-time-as-this-when-community-comes-through/.
The part that really reflected the essence of true community to me came through her Facebook call for help after her husband was admitted to the hospital.
Many of you have asked how you can help while Evan is in the hospital and I am so SO grateful for all of you and your big hearts. I am so blessed to have this army of people in my life who are ready and willing to dive in and help when needed. If you are looking for a way to be a HUGE help, here it is.
I am determined not to let this ruin the birthday party that Isaiah has had his heart set on for a year. So, we are going to pull this off….together.
TONIGHT, starting at about 8:30 pm, we are going to turn the basement and garage into Hogwarts. This party is happening on Wednesday, in Jesus’ name!
(A list of supplies needed follows.)
I know it’s insanely short notice and a little nuts, so I still love you if you can’t make it.Don’t be surprised if I burst into tears out of gratitude.
After the party, she shared this post:
Sometimes Church looks like a bunch of friends turning a basement and a garage into Hogwarts for a frazzled mom who wants to save her son’s birthday party. I cannot EVEN. Thank you a million times over to everyone who came and made potions, spray painted sheets to look like brick, created floating candles, stuck spiders to the wall, and stocked Honeydukes. I am humbled and so incredibly thankful for your willingness to drop everything and help make this party possible for this sweet boy.
Thank you just doesn’t feel like enough. . . To everyone who dropped off markers, wine, chairs, costumes. Those who are making a birthday cake or decorating cookies. Those who made wands by hand. Everyone who is praying for us.
Being the Hands and Feet
A few days later, my mom, three of my kids, and I traveled out to see my grandma (who was visiting from NC) at my uncle Jim’s house. Jim is battling ALS. (Be sure to read about his inspirational story and the way community is stepping up financially for his family.) When we arrived, a couple was already there, visiting with Jim. I didn’t recognize them at first, but it turned out that they were Jim’s old neighbors from 20 years ago.
Now, they live a half mile away, and multiple times each week, the wife comes to the house to administer Jim’s tube feeding. Her husband came along that day and lifted Jim’s spirits with his camaraderie. He also brought his riding mower and mowed Jim’s lawn. With the week of vacation he has coming up, he already plans to spend part of it helping out Jim’s family with projects around the house.
I was so moved by this couple, who give of their time and resources to care for an old friend and his family in practical ways. For them, it is a joy to serve Jim in this way. They are living out community through acts of service and fellowship.
This post is getting too long, I know, and these are just three of the many examples of community I’ve seen this month. Especially in the wake of the Paris attacks and the ensuing confusion and fear, let us remember what God has called us to: love. When we live in true community, we live out the sacrificial, joyful love of Christ to others. Our hands are outstretched in welcome to the poor, the unlovely, the unloved, as well as those we love most. He didn’t say it would be easy; His way is a narrow path, and few will take it. Let us be among those few. I shared this article on my Facebook page, but I am sharing it here as well, because it so beautifully captures how love casts out fear. I hope you will take time to read it.
How will you live out Acts 2:42-45 this week?