"The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people."
This passage interests me on a personal level. Here's why:
The early church had grown to about five thousand believers. The apostles were performing miraculous signs by the Holy Spirit. The gospel was being boldly proclaimed. The church was united and generously shared all that they had with one another. The believers met in homes, but being Jewish, they also still met regularly in the Temple. They had a specific place. Like a high school cafeteria, everyone knew where the Christians were gathering: a place called Solomon's Colonnade. And like a high school cafeteria, everyone was afraid to join them.
Here's what interests me though: They were highly regarded by the people. Everyone thought well of the Christians. God was performing miracles through them. A beggar had just recently been healed at the Temple. Everyone praised God. The Scriptures were being presented in a new light because of this Jesus, and it was making sense. They loved and cared for one another. Everyone thought so well of them! But no one dared join them? Why?
Fear. They wouldn't join them because they were afraid. The Jewish leaders had threatened the apostles not to talk about this Jesus: "Don't even do good in His name. We don't want to hear it." No one wants to be thrown out of the Temple. The Temple is the center of Jewish life. So admire from a distance. Wish you had the courage to join in. Walk past what you know is right so that life can go on as normal.
This interests me on a personal level because this seems to be the response to our church sometimes. I could be wrong, but people seem to admire our efforts. Of course, everyone does not share this admiration, but for now, I'm thinking of the people who do. They seem to acknowledge that we are following Jesus in ways that seem good, true, and beautiful. We are not perfect by any means, but they seem to respect our courage for trying something fresh and new. And yet... they walk right by. They dare not join us. Why? I can only speculate.
Is it fear? Fear of being labeled with us? Fear of novelty? Fear of not fitting in? Fear of having less time in their weekend? Or is it the fear we all face of having to commit to something? The fear of having to surrender our lives to this God who surrendered His life for us? Fear that we are not ready to lay aside our fears?
Of course, there is no single answer. Yet here is my appeal: If you are one of these distant admirers, (not just of our church, but any church), how long will you keep walking past? We are not perfect, but we have committed to one another. We worship together, we serve together, we sacrifice together, we suffer together. Because that's what it means to follow Jesus. It means being a part of His body. So lay aside your fears, whatever they may be. Perfect love casts out all fear. If we are the body of Christ, then His arms are wide open. Dare to join us.