A Caring Community
- Realize that we are part of a community that is called to care for each other's needs
- Consider the members of your church community and what their needs might be
- Take time to care for someone in your church community
When I was young, it seemed almost every congregation in my denomination had a "Dorcas Society." It was a women's group, usually older women, who got together for coffee and discussion, but who also were doing something practical to help others in the community. They might have been knitting baby blankets or making bandages for sick people in Africa, but the idea, of course, was inspired by Dorcas, the godly woman we meet in Acts 9.
Dorcas was a widow. Widows were especially vulnerable in those days. It was hard for a woman to have a "place" in society, and even harder to make a living as a widow. Women tended to have a place only by belonging in some way to a man, so once they were no longer connected to a man, they quickly found themselves lost.
What's interesting is that back then in Christian circles, these women had a special calling (see Acts 6:1; 1 Tim. 5:3-10). On the one hand, widows were cared for according to their needs. It was recognized that they often didn't have the resources to make it on their own. On the other hand, they were given some special ministries in the church. They had the time and skills to help others, whether it was caring for children, helping people in trouble, or, as in the case of Dorcas, sewing clothes for the needy. In that way, widows were both cared for and contributed to the care of others. These women had a place in the church.
This, along with many other examples in Acts (2:42-47; 4:32-35) and stories of the contributions for the poor in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17; 2 Cor. 8), shows how important it was in the early church to be a community of practical caring. This value was so pervasive that Paul even had to deal with some abuses of the charitable character of the church, such as lazy people living off the generosity of the church (2 Thess. 3:6-10).
It should not be overlooked that this value was prominent in the old covenant as well. A quick search of the books of the law (Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) shows that God has always made provision for the poor among his people. Practices such as gleaning the fields and giving alms were prominent parts of God's law for Israel.
This spirit of caring also had an impact on those outside the church. It was a Christian characteristic that even pagans recognized. An early Christian writer named Tertullian quoted a pagan official who said this about the Christians: "Look at how much they love each other!" There is hardly a better witness to the world of the transforming power of Jesus Christ than a church that is characterized by loving care. Caring is a practical witness to the very nature of the God who sent his Son Jesus into the world to love and serve.
What a wonderful thing if congregations would become big "Dorcas Societies," communities dedicated to caring for their members and beyond!
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