Late night visits from the fire department, squabbles over dishes and cleaning duties, and regular BBQ ribs. What do these three have in common? Community living. Mike and I haven’t necessarily set out to learn about community, what it is and how it relates to us, but we’ve just sort of found ourselves living it out in various ways.
From living with roommates in close quarters, to living in close-relationship to neighbors, to living inside someone else’s home. We’ve had the front-row tour.
Because of this when I read in Acts about the post-resurrection disciples and early-Christian lifestyle, it brings a lot of things to light that would not (could not) be illuminated otherwise:
Fellowship of Believers
“42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
Isn’t that something? It sounds socialistic! Yet, these early Christians were not living this way out of some sort of obligation or mandate. They lived that way because they truly loved Christ and one another. They were living in the wake of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Not only had he taught them to love one another, but then He had gone and set them the ultimate example: He died for them. How could they possibly live any other way?
And really, I think that this example is actually how we were made to live. We were made to be relational. Every single one of us. A baby who is neglected or forgotten will literally grow up with stunted development. We adults cannot function properly without healthy relationships in our lives. It’s just not possible!
Yet because of sin, our relationships often get messy and painful. People offend. People hurt. People reject and repel us. I don’t care who they are- every single one of them does it. And that is the reason Jesus came to die for us- to mend the brokenness and restore right relationship, primarily between us and God, but also between us and man. Remember what Jesus said?
“37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
What About the Soviet Union?
So what does that mean, “Love your neighbor as yourself?” What does it mean to live with “everything in common?” Didn’t that hippie commune stuff totally bomb in the 1970s? Why don’t you ask how the Soviet Union worked out for everyone? Enter the modern Western lifestyle: heavy on the individualism and self-reliance, lean on the community mentality. We love the idea of community- we love the library, the parks, the religious potlucks. We suck at actually working it out in real-life, when it means giving up time, space, energy, resources. And I’m the biggest sucker of them all!
Enter Jesus. Enter grace. Enter mercy. Enter newness. Enter love: “The greatest of these…”
I seriously wonder: what if all of my gifts, talents, resources, and abilities were not meant just for me? What if they were given to me because in His infinite wisdom the Lord saw that I would one day cross paths with someone who needed my exact fill in the blank. And what if the ones that I encounter in life are the exact ones with the fill in the blank that I need? What if it’s all a cycle of ups and downs and haves and have nots?
I, 99% of the time, don’t live like that! I’m self-motivated, I admit. I like to figure things out for myself. I like to have the answers to my problems. I also don’t like giving up my solutions when other people have a problem. It’s too much work, it’s messy, and it’s painful. Oh, and I hate hate hatehatehate not having it all together. And what I really mean is, I hatehatehatehatehate admitting to other people that I (often) don’t have it all together. I don’t even want to have everything in common with my neighbor!
I am (Maybe) Emo
Well… I may not want to learn to “have everything in common”, but guess what? It seems like that is the path I’m on. I can’t escape it. Literally. Right now, our life circumstances are such that we have no choice but to learn to be reliant. It sucks. It’s awesome. It’s hard. It’s freeing. It’s painful. It’s life-giving. Am I emo?
And I can’t help but wonder what sorts of people, places, things, and ideas will cross my path down the road. What sorts of things am I being prepared for by learning this lesson now? I know that even with all of this revelation, I have a hard time truly truly being the person who loves others just as much as I love myself. Even now, having been blessed to live in someone else’s house, my flesh freaks out at the thought of someday maybe returning the favor to some young couple in need. Isn’t that crazy? Probably not. It’s just my nature.
Oh- and that midnight fire department visit? That was my close (literally- we shared a wall and they practically thought our apartment was an extension of theirs) next door neighbors in college leaving a pizza in the oven at 2 a.m. and passing out and forgetting about it. Man alive, I can’t explain how thankful I was for the person who invented smoke detectors.
So here’s to learning to live in community. Learning to live in relationship. Learning to live inside out, instead of the oh-so-much-more-comfortable inside in. How about you?
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