When the first believers in Christ began to make ripples in society, many people commonly referred to them as followers of The Way. This reference is made several times throughout the book of Acts (9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, & 24:22). What was it about the lives of these people, already in a context of Jewish morality, which was able to set them apart? That they would be referred to as The Way?
Two of the most striking examples of the way of life they practiced are found in Acts 2 and Acts 4. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need… they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” (Acts 2:44-46). And again, beginning in Acts 4:32, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own but they shared everything they had…there were no needy persons among them. “Three hundred years later Emperor Julian said of the Christians, ‘The godless Galileans feed our poor in addition to their own.'”
Dom Helder Camara was famously quoted as saying, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.” People tend to applaud charity, but to actually join the poor can often invoke a different response. The questions may perhaps feel threatening, but in a world with plenty to go around and a large portion of that plenty in the hands of Christians, the questions need to be asked; especially in the context of Christ’s teachings.
What we at Lydia’s Gate and others for centuries are speaking and dreaming of is another way of doing life. What, when it was first observed was simply called The Way. In the words of Shane Claiborne, “It is the Kingdom of God on Earth, where the last are first and the first are last and the servant of all is the greatest, where you give to the one who asks and love your enemy.” In fact God’s character is presented to us as a model for our own.
If God values the poor, we have to think about what that means for us, and the Bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God’s deep concern for both. In 1 John 3:17 & 18 it says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”