Connections 05.03.2020: Community from a Distance

Acts 2:37-47

We’ve been doing something counter-intuitive during these days of the COVID-19 pandemic: building community by staying apart. In our current situation, we love our neighbors by staying away from them.

This is different from what the earliest Christians did, it’s different from what the New Testament calls us to do, and hopefully it’s different from what we usually do. After Pentecost, the believers prayed together, studied together, worshiped together, and ate together. Most (hopefully all) of our churches have been meeting through the wonders of technology, if at all. We’re blessed to have those means of staying in touch.

The earliest Christians did something else because they were a community and because they wanted to further build community: they pooled their resources and used them to help those who needed assistance. They did such things because that’s what repentance, the Holy Spirit, and love compelled them to do.

We can still offer such compassionate and practical assistance, and thereby practice and build community from a distance. I’m sure that most of our churches are doing what they can to support, among others, those on the frontlines fighting this disease and those struggling due to unemployment or underemployment, lack of food, and little or no access to healthcare.

Because we love each other, we all hope that it won’t be long until we can all get together again to worship, fellowship, and minister. Also because we love each other, I hope we won’t all get together sooner than we should.

Living in real community usually means being in close proximity. These days, being in real community means staying apart. We are still the Christian community, even from a distance.

It’s a good reminder that community can take many forms, and that we shouldn’t be too set in our ways of thinking about it.

Discussion

  • The people who have been listening to Peter’s Pentecost sermon ask, “What should we do?” (v. 37). What causes us to ask that question? Should asking be a regular practice in our lives? Why or why not?
  • What does it mean to “be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 38)? What are we saying when we are baptized in his name?
  • Why do you think the early Christian community’s practices impressed the people around them? How should our practices do so?
  • How do historical, social, and other contexts affect the ways Christians practice community? The ways local churches practice community? The ways churches in a particular denomination or fellowship do so?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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