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Thursday, April 22, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Acts 4-5:11

Growing up as the youngest of four children was an interesting experience. It was interesting because I had a taste both of what it was like to grow up having siblings and what it was like to be an only child. Let me tell you how that was possible.

You see my two brothers and my sister are significantly older than I am. My sister is 7 years older than I and my brothers are 9 and 10 years older. When I was little, this meant that I had the experience of growing up with lots of siblings around. As I got older and entered junior high, however, my siblings had graduated from high school and moved on with their lives. This meant that for much of my teen years, I lived as if I were an only child.

This unique situation helped me grow to appreciate my sister and brothers more than some who grew up simply taking their siblings for granted. There were many things I appreciated about them. Some of those things were pretty superficial (i.e. I liked having older siblings who could drive me places) while other things were not (i.e. I liked being able to step back and learn from their mistakes without always having to make the mistakes myself).

One of the most important things my siblings taught me was how it was possible to function as one family in spite of our differences. My oldest brother Gene, for instance, didn’t like school much, but he LOVED playing the drums. My older brother Keith toyed around with music some but came alive on the football field and wrestling mat. My sister Karen was physically active through outlets like the high school’s drill team, but she really enjoyed her time spent learning about other languages and cultures. And while I felt comfortable in classrooms learning, I most enjoyed the time I was able to spend leading and organizing others. While those differences might have caused some brothers and sisters to drift apart, my siblings and I were able to weave together the various threads of our lives into one beautiful tapestry. At least that was true on our good days :)

I was reminded of my experiences with my siblings when I read today’s passage from Acts – for in that passage the author(s) give voice to a rather provocative image of the early faith community in which Peter and John were moving. The fourth chapter of Acts culminates with this description of the community: “The whole congregation of believers was united as one – one heart, one mind!”

Some might hear that description and say, “That’s impossible! There’s no way that a group of people – especially 'church people' – could ever agree on enough things to function as one.” As I learned from my siblings, I don’t think that description implies that the community of believers agreed on everything. That, indeed, would be impossible! What I think it suggests is that the group had a sense of perspective about what really mattered (i.e. their relationship with their Creator and their relationships with one another) – and that perspective allowed them to transcend their superficial differences and unite.

So how do you live with those who are different than you? Are you threatened by those differences and use them as excuses to withdraw from others; or are you able to maintain a sense of perspective that allows you to transcend those differences and live in harmony with those who are different from you?

Til next time…

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