Thursday, September 29, 2005

Community Living

This is an email a friend of mine received and asked me to reply to it.

Hey Gordone. It's been a while. I understand what your heart is about
community. If you look at the enviornment that the Christians were living
in, back in the Bible days, they had to stick together with all the persecution
that was going on. I think it was easier for them to form community. It
was the only way to survive. Lyn's group has really been discussing that lately.
What is true community, what does it look like, andhow do we want our group to
proceed with it. It's hard because we aren't in desperate times. It's easy to
have your own life, to be self-sufficient. Counter culture to be living in a
community. Sometimes you can become too codependant on people, and
that's not healthy either. That's my shpeel on it.

This is my reply:

Note that the passages at the end of Acts 2 and Acts 4 don't describe a church in desperation, but a church in a great period of growth. You don't get any sense of difficulty until possibly Acts 6, but certainly not until later. Community is described not as a response to circumstances, but a response to Jesus' command. Remember that Acts is the second volume of a single book. Jesus said in Luke 12:33-- "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." He said in Luke 14:33-- "No one can follow me unless they have renounced all of their possessions." The communities in Acts 2 and 4 are simply obeying Jesus' teaching.

Also note what "community" is in Acts 2 and 4. It is not a bunch of people living in the same community. Nor is it strictly a communist-like economy, where all material possessions are being directed by a central group. Rather it is a different idea. People living on the land they have been appointed by God. But their blessings, any and all of their excess, being given to the apostles-- the church leadership-- to be given to the poor in an appropriate way. Churches weren't in separate buildings, but in each other's homes, and the larger homes held larger groups.

Communities don't have to live together to be communities-- there is a group here in Portland where each family who joined the community agrees to live within a five minutes walk from each other. Communities don't have to have a "common pot" to be a community. But communities need to agree to "live together"-- to share each other's lives and to meet on a frequent basis so they can share with each other. Scriptural communities do meet the needs of the poor-- that is in following Jesus' command. Scriptural communities have meals together to celebrate their unity in God's kingdom. Scriptural communities worship together.

All other bets are off. In other words, I don't believe that there can be any other standard that says what a Christian community "must" look like. There are many different kinds of communities, each one meeting the unique needs of the people who join them. Apart from these basic standards, I think that each community will be different, according to how God's Spirit leads each one.

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