The first church was an “unusual” group of people. Acts 2:44-47 says that “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

They were unusual, at least in my mind, because they had a sense of community that is uncommon today. Christians are known widely for their generosity and love, but this kind of community is rare, even among Christians. For the most part, we do not meet together daily, sharing meals regularly, sharing our possessions as if they were not our own. Our culture would find this strange behavior, and we are likely to agree. As much as we might love our brothers and sisters in Christ, most of us like to protect “our space.”

Perhaps it’s our understanding of what it means to love one another, as Jesus commanded in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” This has to be important to Jesus; he repeats the command in John 15:12, 17. How did Jesus love us? Sacrificially. He loved us to the point of dying for us.

While I’m not expecting any of us to encounter circumstances where we might have the choice of dying for our brothers and sisters in Christ, I know that there are other circumstances in life when we might have the opportunity to love sacrificially. Paul explains it like this in Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Generosity is often an expression of our love out of the excess of what we have; sacrificial love gives regardless of what we have, as if to our own family, as if the other person is more important than ourselves.

In this new year, let us work on loving each other in this way. Let us make Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 our prayer for the year: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”