It Doesn't Happen "Naturally"
Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
Selling their possession and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need … There were no needy persons among them (Acts 2:45, 4:34).
This week’s two passages from Acts both follow immediately upon the apostles’ proclamation of the resurrection. Our passage from Acts 2 comes right after Peter’s sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). The Acts 4 passage follows the arrest and release of Peter and John after they were publicly proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:1-22).
We have tended to understand resurrection as primarily having to do with life after death, with the hope and promise of heaven. The early church understood it very differently. God’s raising of Jesus from the dead meant that the cross was a victory, not the crushing defeat it so obviously seemed to be. If Jesus has conquered Death (“He is risen!”), that also means that Sin has likewise been vanquished. And the conquest of Sin and Death by the crucified-and-raised Jesus means: new creation.
Think of the resurrection as a pinhole through which God’s new-creation future starts “leaking” into our old-creation present, the “powers of the age to come” invading our “present evil age.”
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with our God are beautiful words—until we actually try to do them! Having God’s command and being the kind of people who can faithfully live it out are two very different things. To be the latter requires resurrection-powered new creation. The Jesus Way doesn’t just “happen naturally.”
As the early church was apprehended by this new-creation reality in the resurrection of Jesus, they start to act like they’re back in Genesis 1 and 2! God’s good creation is lavish and abundant, so there’s plenty for everyone. They are in a place of communion with God and with each other, so there is joy, worship, praise, and gratitude. Shalom (peace) is happening, the shalom of Scripture, which means provision, health, flourishing, abundance for everyone, for the whole community. It sounds like they were living in the party that is Genesis 1 and 2, and also foretasting the party with which Scripture ends (“the marriage feast of the Lamb”).
And they see God’s continuing work in and through them—healing, liberation from enslaving forces, lavish provision, the community growing, being added to by God, day by day.
The more we think we can do justice and mercy and humility on our own steam, the more we realize that so much more is needed than our resolve, good intentions, willpower, determination, inspiration, and trying harder. What is needed is that we need to be made new—we need to be re-created (or new-created) in Christ. As that happens, justice, mercy and humility follow close on.