· · · · · · · ·

Week Four | Subversive Generosity on the Move

We’re here to help you learn and grow, so naturally, we share affiliate links for products that we use and love. When you click on one of these links, we will earn a small amount of money, at no additional cost to you, which we’ll use towards keeping the lights on here! You can read our full disclaimer here.

The Gospel on the Ground Online Biblical Study
Reading Assignment – Session Four (Pg. 84-107)
Listen to the Audio version | Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’ve never been shy about being a Christian. Even when I was young, I proudly wore my cross necklace and WWJD bracelet, and often took my Bible with me to school. While other girls were drawing hearts on their notebooks, around the names of the boys they had crushes on, I was drawing crosses and writing, “Jesus loves me”, with a little heart as the “o”, of course. 

By wearing tassels called, tzitzit, on their garments, Jesus and His first followers were pretty bold about showing they were Jewish. Jesus knew a time was quickly approaching when His followers would no longer be classified among the Jewish people, and would be in a category all their own.

While talking with Peter and His other followers, Jesus explained how the world would be able to know they are His disciples.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
John 13:34-35, NLT

They will know we are Christians by our… what?

The earliest followers of Jesus did not earn the name, Christian, just because they dressed a little differently. They didn’t even have WWJD bracelets yet. Followers of Jesus were recognized by and known for their kindness, and amazing generosity.  Most importantly they were known as Christians by the love they shared.

In Antioch on the Orontes, society was extremely divided into various people groups and classes. But just as Jesus demonstrated, His followers did not let social order, positions, or ethnicity influence who they spent time with, who they ate with, or who they helped care for, they shared God’s love with everyone and the people in Antioch noticed. The early church took the responsibility and role as a family very seriously. Everyone had a place, regardless of where they came from, who their parents were, or what job they had. They belonged. They truly saw each other as brothers and sisters, all adopted into God’s family.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”
Acts 4:32-35, NIV

Subversive Generosity on the Move

Can you imagine being invited into such a generous community?

Perhaps after being forced to leave your Greek, Roman, or Gentile family because you no longer wanted to follow the imperial cult, to then be greeted with open arms and assured you would have everything you needed, would likely have provided such relief and shalom.  

This was the situation for many of the earliest believers in Jesus.  They were kicked out of their families and forced to walk away from loved ones and lost everything they had. But God made sure they were welcomed into His family, by instructing His followers to extend subversive generosity to everyone who believed Jesus to be their Lord and Messiah.

The earliest followers of Jesus lived with such extravagant generosity towards one another because they were living like they were their brother’s keepers.

kristi mclelland, Pg. 95 of “the gospel on the ground”

Being a part of God’s family was warm and loving. Everyone was taken care of, and all physical and financial needs were met by everyone caring for each other as brothers and sisters. Paul beautifully expressed the importance of this type of love in 1 Corinthians 13:1 when he said,

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV

The NIV, NLT, and many other translations of this verse use the words, “do not have love”, but interestingly the King James Version says, “and have not charity”.

The Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 13:1 for charity is agape, which means affection, goodwill, love, benevolence, or brotherly love.

Christians displayed radical brotherly love through their unstoppable generosity to one another. People couldn’t help but notice this attractive generosity. The love of God moving through them was more obvious than their clothing. Kristi McLelland asks us a thought-provoking question in her video lesson for session 4 of The Gospel on the Ground, when she says,

In the world of Empire, how are you living, for Empire to look at you and say, ‘Oh you, right there, the way you’re walking, and living, you’re a Christian?

kristi mclelland, “the gospel on the ground” session 4 video


Reality check, huh?

We can absolutely continue wearing our cross necklaces, and WWJD bracelets. It’s great to share Scripture and talk about the amazing blessings of God on social media. These kinds of things are very important, but we need to do more than just dress and talk like Christians. People around us should be able to tell we are followers of Jesus because they see His extravagant, loving generosity being shared through us. In video session 4 of The Gospel on the Ground, Kristi McLelland says it best,

We don’t live in ancient Antioch on the Orantez, but you live in your city and I live in mine, and the gospel is still moving on the ground. And we have an opportunity to be people with eyes that are opened twice, a hopeful embodiment and manifestation of the reality of the kingdom of abundance in a world of scarcity.”

kristi mclelland, “the gospel on the ground” session 4 video

And drop mic!

1. Jesus knew His followers would be in a category of their own.
2. The earliest Christians were known by the love they shared.
3. The early church openly welcomed everyone as their brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. People should know we are Christians by the way we share God’s loving generosity with others.

What are some creative ways you can share God’s loving generosity with others?

Shop this study

The Gospel on the Ground | Kristi McLelland

A 7-week study unpacking the life of the early church in the book of Acts to see that the kingdom of God is always on the move, always looking outward to bring meaning and joy to a world searching for true fulfillment and hope.

Buy the Book

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.