The Communalists

pen, checks, and bills
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmgimages/4882450962/">Ramberg Media Images</a>

Acts 4:32-35

Everyone in the community was unanimous. They considered each other the same as themselves, and nobody counted anything as their own, but as the community’s. Those who had been sent told their witness of the resurrection so convincingly that everyone was inspired to graciousness. So it was that nobody ever went without. Whoever owned land or houses sold them and gave the proceeds to the community. They gave it all to the those who’d been sent, and they, in turn, passed it out according to what needs people had.

Early Christians weren’t communists because they ascribed to an economic theory. They were communist because that was how they made sure everyone’s needs were met. It’s probably more accurate to say they were communalists.

Behind the community’s practice, it’s clear that there are two things going on.

First, there is an agreement that everyone really is equal, and that equality is understood, not in a theoretical “all are endowed by their creator” sense, but as a moral obligation to the other.

Second, there is a convincing witness of the resurrection that inspires graciousness. It’s not enough to simply assent to the idea that “Jesus is risen.” Lots of mean people will say they believe in the resurrection, but they don’t care about anyone but themselves. Not so convincing. A convincing witness to the resurrection is a story that inspires people to live in a resurrected way – to live graciously in relationship with others.

It’s not about the particular economic system of the community. It’s about the moral character of the community. Whatever economic system you go with, the same question applies: Is everyone taken care of according to their need? A community’s budget is a moral document.

Yes, but Do You Care?

Joyful face
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/backpackphotography/1234259576/">Backpack Photography</a>

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Be joyful. Pray. Be grateful. God wants you to be grateful. Don’t be a wet blanket on the fires of enthusiasm for God, but check everything carefully, keeping the good, rejecting the evil.

May the God of peace personally make you 100% dedicated to the cause. May you remain whole, body, soul, and spirit. And may you be blameless in the end.

Indeed, God who calls you will do this.

[See also, previous comments on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28.]

Last month, writing on this chapter, I wrote, “…you can’t command respect, let alone love. You can only earn it.”

Which, I believe is true. But there is something more. You can also give it. It’s called being gracious.

And you can give it – joy, love, respect, grace – even when it’s unearned.

Mostly, you give it by not being a wet blanket on the fires of enthusiasm. Whether that enthusiasm is for God, or for anything else. Nobody likes it when you rain on their parade. So, you think it’s crazy, or stupid, or you’re not really that interested in what someone is really excited about. So what! Most of the time, it’s not going to hurt anything to be gracious about it. Be happy for them.

You can also give it by giving what you do to the world around you. Do cook? Do you write? Do you clean? Do you sculpt? Do you teach? Do you make widgets? Whatever it is the difference between joy and drudgery comes down to this one question: Do you care? Even when nobody else is looking, are you 100% dedicated to the cause?

The whole gospel as Jesus presented it can be wrapped up in one simple idea: Jesus cared. And if you were to ask Jesus what he believed about God, he likely would have said: the only God worth believing in is the God who cares.

Or, as Paul says, “The God who calls you will do this.”