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Morning over the bay

Why Community?

Merrill Mow

Available languages: Deutsch

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  • Johann Rhoades

    What I like about your life is that it is, it's it's whole-hearted, there's nothing theoretical about it, this is the way people should live.

The Spirit of God is a spirit of unity and not disunity. Therefore we must decisively put away everything and anything which separates certain groups of people from others. What separates human beings? To love anything but God. If I put my task, my job, my artistic talent, my studies, or my possessions in a position of any importance whatever then I place a barrier between myself and my brothers and hence between myself and God. Jesus' many teachings about decisively cutting off and throwing away anything which divides man from God are quite clear on this point. That is precisely the reason why the Apostolic Church lived in complete community. Naturally, most modern interpreters, who do not themselves believe in a life of unity, regard this gift to the earliest Christians as an unimportant oddity. But this contradicts the whole spirit of the life and message of Jesus.

Living together in community of goods cannot of itself produce the Christian life or the life of unity. It is strictly a result – a gift of God – given to those who surrender to his will. History is crowded with all sorts of communal attempts which went on the rocks or became hard and legalistic, simply because of lack of faith, or because they thought that community of goods guaranteed the good life. Community of goods is only an outcome, but a necessary outcome.

One might ask, what is unity? Does it go beyond a complete sharing of all things? The answer is yes. The Church-community does something which is highly impractical: that is, it waits to act on any issue until it is sure that the will of God is known in the matter at hand. God's will in the matter can only be clearly discerned in any matter when all dedicated members of the community agree as to what it is.

In the Church-community there can never be an unhappy minority. Too often the democratic process overrides the voice of the prophet of God. Those who want to wield power and influence can usually bring about the things they want, good or bad, by skilfully working up a majority to vote down the minority. The only real remedy to this is again the life of unity which the Spirit of Jesus gives. If a group of Christians is truly together in Christ's name, they must have the faith that Christ will give them a unanimous clear understanding of how to proceed with the matter at hand.

One of the most frequent criticisms raised about the Church-community is that it is withdrawing or escaping from the world. If the community were truly withdrawing, it would not be a true Church. It cannot and must not ever seek to escape from the world in that sense. Indeed, if it had no outreach to others, it would be little more than a museum of self-satisfied fossils. Rather, it is in the world and is constantly calling to the world to forsake its evil ways. Yes, the world is rejected in this sense, as Jesus rejected it. But the Church is not escaping. It is sending out a call to repentance.

At the outset the person who professes to be Christian must make a total break with the old life and its false values. For how can he speak out effectively against the secularism and selfish mammon-seeking spirit of human society if he himself is wedded to the evil system by living in it and competing in it? His witness is lost if he does not make it completely clear that he will have nothing to do with the self-seeking property-grabbing spirit of secular society.

As such, his life in the Church-community is a living demonstration of the utmost relevance: a demonstration of the fact that the answer to the world's most pressing needs is found in complete surrender to God, and to others. If he is true to God's daily leading, then he will not be part of a community that is isolated. Rather it will be a dynamic demonstration of the life of the Kingdom, and as such it will draw others like a magnet.

It is important to patch up the symptomatic wounds of a sick society, but the really important thing is to attack the evil causes of the sickness at their roots. A radical new society living in Christ is the only real and lasting relevant answer. This is the Christian Church-community.

forget-me-nots and primroses
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