In response, I had a very good discussion with Bob over on Facebook. (Follow this link to view the discussion.)
Bob made some very good points. For example, he said:
I think that it is tempting to read the early chapters of Acts and imagine what community really looks like. Yet I imagine that all present did not experience community in the ways that we think. Sometimes community comes in strange places as we get to know the people that we work with and live close to. And sometimes we are able to share our lives and our souls with kindred spirits.
This is a great point! While Luke gives us a good description of the community that the early church shared, we should not misread what Luke says. Obviously, even that early community in Christ was not perfect. While Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) were probably extreme examples, we can know that there were problems among this early group of believers. Why? Because they were human. They were not perfect; therefore, the community that they shared with one another was not perfect.
Of course, as Bonhoeffer said (and as I quoted in my recent post “The Church: Not an ideal but a divine reality“), it is in this imperfect community that we discover God’s grace and that we learn what true sharing is all about.
We share our lives with one another – in spite of our imperfection and in spite of the imperfect way that we relate to one another because of those imperfections. Then, we help one another – mutually – to grow together in maturity in Jesus Christ. He is our goal as well as the only way to reach that goal.
In Acts 2, Luke provides a good example of what Jesus Christ did among one group of believers as they submitted themselves to him. Was it perfect? No.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit will mold us into a community in Jesus Christ as we submit ourselves to him, in spite of our imperfections – individually and corporately.
We never wait for perfection (from ourselves or others or our group) before we share our lives with one another.