Read: Acts 4:32-35
All the believers were united in heart and mind. Acts 4:32
The community garden near my house has more than twenty plots available to rent. After paying a small fee, neighbors can cultivate their own plot all summer long and get the use of shared tools, water, soil, and fencing. By pooling their resources, neighbors who wouldn’t normally have the space or tools to garden get access to a whole network of resources. At harvest time, those with an abundance of one kind of produce can share with others so that everyone has enough.
The community garden is a beautiful picture of what Christ-honoring relationships and stewardship can look like. In Acts 4, Luke describes the united community of the early church. As more believers in Jesus were added to their number, Luke says they were “united in heart and mind” (V. 32), a beautiful description of unity that Jesus prayed for before His crucifixion (John 17). But in addition to spiritual unity, they also “shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32). Some disciples were moved to give generously of their own resources and property to assist those in need (VV. 34–35). By participating in fellowship, serving together, and helping each other, they grew beautiful spiritual fruit of kindness, generosity, and love.
Instead of focusing only on our own garden—our efforts, resources, and goals—let’s tend our community garden and by God’s grace produce something beautiful.
What “community garden” is available to you? How can you share work, resources, and fruit with your faith family?
May I be united in heart and mind with other believers, Jesus. Help me to better reflect You in community.
Read: Ephesians 4:1-6
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
Our small-group Bible study had a problem. We’d grown to more than thirty people. The deacons suggested we split the group, but no one wanted to leave. So we stayed together. It hadn’t always been that way. When we started with just a few people, most had been reluctant to speak. Soon, however, we realized we could honestly share with each other. We prayed. We helped each other in practical ways.
For the first half of his letter to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul wrote about who we are in Jesus. We’re God’s blessed, chosen, forgiven, and adopted chil- dren (Ephesians 1:3–14). We’re the revealed mystery of Christ (3:2–6), Jews and Gentiles coming together to form God’s church. Then, in chapter 4, Paul tells us, “Lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God” (V. 1). This will reveal itself in practical ways. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (V. 2). These are qualities that don’t come naturally. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to forge a unifying bond of peace (V. 3).
As David wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 NIV). This is our calling. It’s who we are.
When have you experienced disunity in the church? When have you experienced unity, and what do you think made the difference?
Father, help me to be patient today.
Read: Colossians 3:8-13
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
Their walls went up quickly. Their emotional walls, that is. On one side, a professor who teaches racial harmony skills explained to his Christian audience how, with God, he can study grueling facts about cruel history without losing hope. On the opposite side, however, a man raged at having to hear such information. “Why are you spreading such lies? My nation isn’t racist,” he said. Back and forth they went until a soft-spoken woman stood and simply asked, “Will you join me in prayer?” Suddenly, the room quieted. “Might we turn together,” she added, “to God in prayer?”
Her calming plea can be heard in Paul’s instruction to rid ourselves of “anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language” (Colossians 3:8). Writing from prison to a church torn by competing views about Jesus, Paul implored battling factions to turn not against each other—but toward each other in unity.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” How? “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you” (VV. 12–13). As Jesus Himself said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart” (Matthew 12:25). May we heed this wisdom today and listen with love as He leads us.
How do you respond to other believers’ views? What can you do when you disagree with them? What can you do to follow Paul’s instruction to bear with each other when we disagree?
God, soften my spirit to hear different views with Christ’s love.
Read: 1 John 4:7-21
We love each other because [God] loved us first.
1 John 4:19
At church that morning, I sat in a chair closest to the exit door. I wrestled with pent-up anger, resentment, unforgiveness, and fear that had built up throughout my life and helped me keep people at a distance. As soon as the preacher stopped talking and the music began, I rushed to pick up my children.
Turning to my oldest son, I said, “Take your brother to get a donut and meet me by the car.” The last thing I wanted to do was talk to people. This cycle of avoidance continued for months. As I listened to the sermons and began reading the Bible on my own, eventually I asked God to help me accept His love personally. Over time, my knowledge of God and my confidence in His intimate love for me grew. Now, I can barely contain my love for God and His people.
The apostle John describes this type of heart and mind transformation as a response to the ultimate display of God’s love for us (1 John 4:19). Jesus took the punishment we deserve because of our sins and gave His life for ours through His death on the cross (VV. 7–10). Accepting the depth of God’s sacrificial love changes us (VV. 11–12) and gives us the ability to receive love and extend love toward others in the church and beyond (VV. 13–21).
Though we may struggle with feeling unlovable, God can lead us to accept and share His love.
When have you struggled with receiving God’s love for you? How can He help you better love others in healthy and holy ways?
Loving God, thank You for working in my heart and mind as You lead me to love You and others as selflessly as You love us.
Read: Matthew 26:26-29
This is my blood….. poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.
The film Places in the Heart tells the story of Edna Spalding, a mother of two whose husband, Royce, is accidentally killed by a boy named Wiley. Set in Texas in the 1930s, the final scene takes place in a church Communion service. In the front row sits Edna’s sister, who’s been in the process of divorcing her husband but who now lovingly holds his hand. Next we see Moses, an African American man who’s helped Edna with her farm. In that segregated era in the United States, it’s a surprising sight.
After Edna takes Communion, we see something else shocking—she passes the bread and wine to her husband, who’s alive again, and he then passes them to Wiley, his killer. Some viewers have burst into tears at that final scene; I think because it portrays the reconciliation we all hunger for. As Jesus explained, the Communion bread represents His body and the wine His blood, broken and shed to reconcile us to God (Matthew 26:26–28). And as that reconciliation is passed on to others, marriages are mended, racial divisions are erased, and victims and killers become friends. One day, Jesus will even reunite the living with the dead (V. 29; Colossians 1:20).
Each of us needs reconciliation with God and others. Every time we take Communion, we tell ourselves and the world that such reconciliation is available because of what Jesus has done.
With whom do you need to be reconciled? How can Jesus’ sacrificial acts guide you toward that?
Jesus, help me to reconcile with You and others.
Read: Joshua 2: 1-13
By faith . . . Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God.
One evening at a fast-food restaurant, my four-year-old nephew and I were looking for a table. There was one beside a group of tough-looking men, but their appearance and raucous laughter made me hesitate. Since there was no other table, however, Caleb and I sat beside them. Minutes later, the men bowed their heads and prayed, then brought out Bibles. They were a Bible study group!
The discovery filled me with shame. I’d seen the men as unsafe. But God showed me how prejudiced I was toward them. This experience made me think of people God used for His kingdom, people many of us would perhaps view with prejudice. One such person was Rahab. The two Israelite spies chose to hide in her home (Joshua 2:1)—a surprising choice given her occupation. Yet, because of Rahab’s faith in God (VV. 9−11), she and her family were “not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God” (Hebrews 11:31). Not only that, but the former prostitute from Canaan became an ancestor of Jesus Himself (Matthew 1:5).
Rahab’s story—and my experience— reminds me that God sees people differently. In His eyes, we’re all the same—sinners in need of His grace. And when we respond in faith to Him, He can use us for His glory, no matter what our past might be.
What prejudices might you have against others? How can you change your thoughts and attitudes with God’s help?
Heavenly Father, please forgive me for the times I’ve been prejudiced against others.
Read: Acts 10: 28, 38-48
Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.”
Returning from vacation with his mother and brother from a French seaside resort, little Jack (only eight or nine at the time) declared to his father that he was prejudiced against the French. When his father asked why he felt this way, the boy declared, “If I knew why, it would not be a prejudice.” Jack’s (young C. S. Lewis’) statement recorded in Harry Lee Poe’s book Becoming C. S. Lewis is accurate. The word prejudice means an unreasonable preconception that’s formed without knowledge.
Unfortunately, we sometimes fall into the trap of having a negative opinion about others without full knowledge. In the Bible, the Jews viewed the gentiles as unclean and lesser than themselves. As we read in Acts 10, however, God made it clear to Peter that this shouldn’t be the case. Peter declared this message: “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean” (V. 28). Peter explained that “God shows no favoritism” (V. 34). In fact, that day, “the gift of the Holy Spirit [was] poured out on the Gentiles, too” (V. 45).
God wants all people to be a part of His family. Let’s set aside any preconceived notions we have about others and welcome all with joyful hearts.
What are some prejudices you’ve had or have about others? How can God help you love others as we’re called to love?
Heavenly Father, please forgive me for judging others based on preconceptions.
Read: Hebrews 10: 19-25
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
His name was Dino Impagliazzo, but he was better known as “chef of the poor.” Impagliazzo, a 91-year-old renowned chef in Rome, found new purpose in preparing delicious entrees. He prepared and delivered meals to the homeless via his nonprofit organization. Assisted by about 300 volunteers, Impagliazzo delivered 32,000 hot meals annually to those in need in Rome until his death in 2021.
The initiative began in 2006 under the name “Quelli del quartiere,” or “the neighborhood people.” Impagliazzo came up with the idea when he was walking through the Tuscolana train station in Rome. A man approached and asked him for money. He got to know the man and realized that “perhaps instead of buying one sandwich, making some sandwiches for him and for [his ]friends who were there would be better.” And while it started out with just food, the non-profit now distributes blankets, clothing, and hygiene products. Impagliazzo said, “We try to involve more and more people so that Rome becomes a city where people can love each other.”
As God’s people band together under the direction and power of the Spirit, we can spur or prod one another toward “love and good works” as the writer of Hebrews encourages (Hebrews 10:24). And while such ideas often start in the mind and heart of an individual as the Spirit guides, they are best accomplished when we serve together. Such work is a beautiful picture of caring for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).
What needs could be met in your neighborhood if you had some help?
How might God be inviting you to initiate such beautiful work?
Dear God, give me the eyes to see the needs around me.
Read: Ephesians 4:31-5:2
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
As I stood outside a sports venue waiting for friends to arrive, a woman approached me and asked, “Are you a Jackson?” Though acquainted with my parents and some of my siblings, she was a stranger to me. Yet there was something about me that resembled them, and this compelled her to identify me as “a Jackson.”
Who among us hasn’t noticed a facial feature, smile, or some other trait that resembles that of another? Sharing the physical, emotional, or personality likenesses of those with whom we share DNA is the way life works. Is there something about us that would make others ask, “Are you a believer in Jesus?” In Ephesians 4:32–5:2, two family features of the family of Christ come into view: forgiveness—“forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (4:32) and love—“live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ” (5:2).
As those who identify as believers, we should have core characteristics of the Father and the Son that define us. Relationships, however, can be tough. We’re prone to wound and scar each other through our words and actions (4:31).But in those same challenging situations, through the power of God’s Spirit, we’re able to demonstrate our kinship with other believers and with a loving, forgiving Father.
What about you causes others to see you’re a believer in Jesus? Where do you find it difficult to be forgiving and loving?
Father in heaven, I’m honored to be called Your child. Please help me to better represent You.
Read: Colossians 1: 15-20
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
There’s a scientific principle that on their own, things tend to become increasingly disordered. But scientists today are describing another mysterious principle known as “synchronization”—ways in which our universe seems drawn inexplicably toward order. Hearts beat regularly; fireflies flash in sync; and pendulum clocks placed near each other will spontaneously synchronize, for reasons researchers are only beginning to understand.
Reflecting on the ways in which forms of order and harmony emerge in all spheres of a world that often seems other-wise chaotic reminded me of the mysterious truth that—despite its brokenness and corruption—creation is still united by its source in Christ. Paul explains, “Through him God created everything. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Colossians 1:16–17).
And though our world is often blind to God and His goodness (John 1:11), it remains true that Jesus is also the way in which God has chosen to bring healing and harmony into a disordered and chaotic world: “through him God reconciled everything to himself” (Colossians 1:20).
Every day, Christ brings light, life, and harmony into our confusion, brokenness, and chaos. And one day all will be united in worship of Him, “in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” every voice celebrating “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11).
-Monica La Rose
How has God allowed for both freedom and harmony in the world? How have you experienced those things from Him?/i>
Creator God, thank You for Your amazing creation.