It is fascinating the picture of the early Church we see in the acts of the apostles. It is one of a
community with a deep understanding of its own reason for being. The early Christians were a
people for whom life made sense. Not that their life was particularly easy – it certainly was not.
Right from the start they were persecuted. But strange as it may sound to our ears, that didn’t
seem to matter all that much.
They were a people who had found something important enough to give meaning and purpose
to everything that entered into their lives, good and bad. They had managed to put together
within themselves an attitude toward life that freed them from isolation, from pointlessness and
One of the many questions or observations we may have is how do we build up such a strong
sense of Christian identity and community like the first Christians?
One of the answers is size. It is easier for a small group to be cohesive, immediately responsive
to one another’s needs. Today Christianity is an immense organisation, and it would be
impossible for the Church today to structurally model itself after the gathering of the first
Another advantage that the early Church had over our institutions was a kind of temporal
immediacy. A closeness in time to the events which generate the Church: the death and
Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection was the heart of their message. People who centred
their lives around the Resurrection were suddenly given a limitless world in which to live.
Death became for them simply one in a series of stages in life, not in any sense the boundary of
it. In a world that big, filled with many wonders, persecution, even death, really were not all
that important. There were so many more important things to think about.
So, the Church of those who saw Christ, and talked with him, those who knew him most
intimately, was a Church marked by a centredness on the truth of the Resurrection. And that
truth generated in them a sense of excitement about their own future, a loving bond between
one another, and a loving detachment from the passing concerns of secular society. Not
because those concerns were particularly evil, but rather because they just weren’t all that
The people of the early Church lived in an infinitely big world, and they knew that they had an
eternity in which to experience it, enjoy it all. That nurtured in them a sense of perspective, an
awareness that nothing was worth sacrificing the way of life that would allow them to continue
living in that world forever.