Do you remember that kid who used to do all the silly things that would make people laugh and get them into trouble? How about the kid who always knew the answers and reminded the teacher that she had forgotten to collect the homework? What about the kid who always had the newest clothes or toys and showed them off at school? What about the kid who rebelled no matter what the teacher asked? Yeah, we grew up together.
It’s interesting to think about the kids we grew up with. Not only do we remember the shenanigans but we remember the circumstances and the consequences. Most importantly, we learned something. Life lessons, good and bad, stick with us, and growing up with other people through shared circumstances certainly leads to important lessons we don’t forget.
It’s when we don’t remember the lessons that we find ourselves reliving the same problems over and over. While change is often necessary for growth, it is also important to maintain some continuity with the past, which is what poet and philosopher George Santayana meant when he famously wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
This is no less true when it comes to the church. The history of the church goes back nearly 2000 years, to that first day of Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection, which is recorded in Acts 2. The book of Acts is a historical account of the formation and life of the early church. Acts records what those first-century people said and did as they encountered the message about Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection and how that Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) prompted their faith in Jesus, their salvation by God, and their transformation by the Holy Spirit. It shows how many continued their faith in God but left behind their Jewish religion; it shows how many left behind godless beliefs and lifestyles and followed a new way of faith and life. It chronicles the struggles people had with God, the Gospel, their faith, and their new-found family, the church.
Simply put, Acts is a straightforward, unvarnished look at what it means to grow up together in the church. Much of it was good; some of it was bad; and some of it was just plain ugly. And doesn’t that sound like some of your own experience growing up in the church? Whether you can think back to your own childhood or to your first contact with the church as an adult, don’t you have both good and bad memories? Didn’t those experiences teach you lessons about yourself, about others, about God and the church? Sure they did. And even though there are nearly 2000 years of history between us and the early church, even though their languages, cultures, and experiences were different from our own, there is a strong line of continuity between us and them: Jesus and the Gospel.
So, essentially, we’re growing up together in the church with them. We can “remember” Peter, the forceful fisherman who both defended and denied Jesus before his crucifixion and resurrection and who also preached the first Gospel sermon, led the church, and was imprisoned and beaten for his faith. We remember Barnabas who gave selflessly to meet the needs of others, as well as Ananias and Sapphira who also gave but with selfish motives and lies. We remember men and women who not only worshiped and prayed together but who ate together and shared their possessions with one another. We remember people who were were strong in their faith and those who were weak; those who grew and those who fell away.
When we read Acts, we “remember” and we grow – together. This was Luke’s purpose for writing his accounts: “So that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4). This is why we’re going to spend the summer “growing up together,” studying the book of Acts. Get ready to remember the first time you heard the Gospel, the struggles you’ve had with your faith, and even the fears of living out your faith. Get ready to grow in your faith, together with your brothers and sisters.