And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. – Acts 4:32-37
You may have heard the term “esprit de corps.” It refers to the common spirit existing in the members of a group and inspiring enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group. (Thanks Merriam-Webster.com!) We have in these verses a clear sense of esprit de gospel – the common appreciation for the hope of Jesus Christ in the hearts and lives of the people of God in the early church.
The spirit of the Good News of Jesus pervaded the people of God in that place and time. There was a strong sense of unity, common cause, mutual appreciation, and love – all fueled by the Good News that Jesus had come into the world, taught them about the rule and reign of God, and although tortured and executed, been raised from the dead. His resurrection formed the basis of their message and the foundation of their hope.
Too many years have passed and too many distractions vie for our hearts’ attention and devotion these days. Whether it’s your favorite football team, you dream vacation just over the time horizon, your hopes for your children or grandchildren, or that illusion pot of gold – the reward of hard work and careful investment, so many things crowd out our esprit de gospel. Our churches and lives look so much unlike those of the early Christians.
On some level this is inevitable. We live 2000 years later than they, and their efforts to spread the Word around the world have yielded a harvest 1000 fold! Churches are found on every corner in our cities, and the message of Jesus is broadcast across the airwaves daily. We’ve come to take it for granted. We’ve been jaded.
What would it look like for us to catch the esprit de gospel in our day? It would look like a unified church where members pray for one another and respond to the needs that are all around them. It would look like people anxious to gather for worship not just so their bucket can be filled, but so that they can encourage one another in the walk of faith. It may look like recalibrated financial goals. It may involve new priorities of time management. It might mean a slower pace or a more careful listening ear when someone is hurting.
Barnabas was not only caught up in such an esprit de gospel, but helped sustain and advance it. What might you and I do today to pass that on in our churches? Worth praying about and doing, I’d say!