42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Gonna do something I probably shouldn't.
Gonna blog on a piece of Scripture about which people consistently say things that make me want to call them a idiot.
Here's the formula we use here at the Jesus Paradigm. We ask the following question: “How does this passage reflect the inspiration and person and work of Jesus Christ?” Far-fetched, I know.
Sorry, I'm just tired of engaging over Scripture in a constant whirlwind of tail-chasing qualifications over what things should and shouldn't look like. If you do that, cut it out. Cut it out right now. It's much easier to just shove everything through the Jesus Paradigm and quit wringing your hands about the social gospel or whatever.
Here's the deal, I won't say stupid things like “careful now, don't take this text like it's an imperative for all churches to live in community,” and you won't worry that my not saying it is an encouragement to give nuclear secrets to China. Because Scripture doesn't tell its story with a sensitivity for 21st century America's petty fixations on politics, possessions, and the freedom to live completely separated from the inconveniences of having other people around. Let's get something straight: YOU live in community. It doesn't matter whether you try to or not. The question is to what extent, with which aspects of your life, to what end, and with what extent of intentionality? Are you married? You live in community. Do you have children that aren't grown? You live in community. Do you live on the same block as other people? You're sharing space, and therefore you live in community. If we didn't live in some form of community, we would die, because we are interdependent for emotional and physical well-being. I simply can't give myself surgery. So I gotta pay someone else to do it, in which case I've entered an agreement with another person involving mutual dependence, with the expectation of mutual benefit.
If you're worried about socialism at this point in my analysis, please wipe the froth off your mouth and hear me out to the end.
Back to our question: How do Jesus and the gospel have anything to do with this church's decision to all get crazy and move in together and threaten our American values?
Well, what happens when Jesus transforms someone into a new creation and gives them a new mind is they value things differently. They value, for instance, Jesus. Himself. They value him so much that they think the XBox over which they had a fist-fight with another Wal-Mart customer the day after Thanksgiving is.....optional. They also value the things Jesus values. Like people. I mean real people, the people in front of them, not the people on Dancing With the Stars. They actually, by some devil-magic, find themselves willing to lose in the practical matter in order to win in terms of sacrificing for someone else's good. That kind of stuff happens. It really does. (Usually it's not in testimonies of How I Came To The Lord though. I've noticed. “some guy willingly took a bullet for me and with his dying breath said 'Jesus is all in all'...so I became a Christian.” I don't really hear that one too often.)
So if I value Jesus, and the things Jesus values, more than anything including my own desires, goals, possessions, and well-being, that makes it so that it's a lot more difficult for people to offend me and make my life miserable. I'm not constantly worried that someone's gonna break my stuff, because really, even when they screw up, even when it's difficult, I like them. The person is my priority. And even if I were to lose everything I own, even the respect of my peers, I would still have Jesus.
If I'm convinced of the gospel promises, the life of the world to come, the constant availability of joy in the Father, in knowing Jesus, the freedom from worry that follows the conviction that “He upholds the universe with the word of his power,” then I won't be all that concerned with maintaining things that in and of themselves have no lasting value. If I don't consider myself deserving of anything, or the owner of anything, if I've received everything as a gift from a gracious God, then it's no big deal to give valuable items away to those in need. Just guessing, but they might have had that kind of conviction in Acts 2, right after the resurrection, the abolition of death.
When that happens, living close to people is not this fringe, terrifying, Josef Stalin thing where we invent hermeneutical gymnastics to say “actually, the Acts 2 church wasn't doing what God wanted at all in that case”...it's simply the most practical, and the most enjoyable, way to do life. It's also lends itself to structuring one's life in such a way that resources normally tied to maintaining your stretched Hummer are freed up to do Jesusy things like this.(apologies if you have a stretched Hummer. If so, you should do Jesusy things with it. Like give this guy a ride.)
The bad news for some is, to live like they did in Acts 2, you do have to like people. If you must make sure that you never see anyone of a different socio-economic status than yourself, you might not like knowing your neighbors, or the folks down at the park. If you need to be seen by others as a productive, bread-winning, one-person self-supportive mechanism, you might not be comfortable being the guy in a group living situation who just keeps the grounds, washes dishes, cleans the bathroom, and fixes leaks.
But just remember, the fear that drives us is not invincible.