32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
The Importance of Unity
Perhaps the best example of the importance of unity is the United States military. Unity is an indispensable characteristic of the military. The success of one is tied up in the success of the group and vice versa. Where there is no unity, people's lives are at risk.
Whether we like it or not, it is the same way with the church - we all sink or swim with each other, no exceptions. In the passage above we see that Luke goes to a lot of trouble to make it clear that these early Christians were unified. Their unification led them to be generous with their material possessions. My first reaction, having read this passage countless times, is that this is no big deal; their generosity is what we SHOULD expect from them. But there is something more important going on here - something deeper going on here. There must be in order to get people to give stuff away. Remember, consumerism and idolatry over money is alive and well in the 1st century. What they shared here was a conviction of Christ, His significance, and His meaning to the created world. It wasn't just about money and stuff, it goes much deeper than this.
What happened is that Christ transformed the categories in their lives. Perhaps we need to go a step further: He didn't just transform them, He destroyed them and created new categories for us to follow. Here's an example: money and material stuff is often looked at as a "horizontal" category. This means that these things concern us and people around us - hence a horizontal category. It is a concern for here and now. When Christ comes he moves money, material things, etc. from merely a horizontal category to a vertical category. What this means is the everything that we have, do, think, etc. is now funneled through the truth of the Gospel. What can't be lost is that this only happens because the church is unified in its conviction about Christ and His work.
Next post we'll be looking at the power of unity.