When people say that we need to be like the “primitive church,” I usually ask, “which one?”: carnal like the Corinthians, foolish like the Galatians, lazy like the Thessalonians, legalistic like Jerusalem, or lukewarm like the Laodiceans?
Nostalgia is a dangerous path when we start thinking about the reformation we need now. Idealizing the church’s “good old times” makes us forget that time erases bad memories and creates fantasies.
The early church survived by keeping its eyes on the promise and living by hope – and we can do the same today. We have been promised to live with the Lord, see him face to face, and live in freedom and joy.
We do not plan for reform. The kingdom interrupts our plans. During apostolic times, Peter, John, and Paul – and Martin Luther, Jakob Hutter, and Menno Simons during the Reformation – all chose to live in tension, keeping their eyes on Jesus in expectation and aligning themselves with the life that had been promised. Each decision and act was made considering not the principles and values of the empires of the day or of the good old days, but the fullness of the kingdom to come. They tried not to emulate the past but to anticipate the future. Eventually, this brought persecution, misunderstanding, and pain.
We do not plan for reform. On the contrary, the kingdom interrupts our plans, and, if we are open to its message, points us to true renewal. In our community in Brazil, we have been interrupted over and over, and have tried to take steps that will keep us open to God’s interruptions.