Vision of the Early Church: Community

Inside_of_Saint_AnaniasEveryone wants to chase the vision that has been put in them. It’s part of our design to dream and make that dream happen. A major tragedy in our culture is that we think we are supposed to do this alone. The Western culture teaches that every person has to take on a John Wayne persona, being a self-made man and forcing life to work. Even the great folk duo Simon and Garfunkel said, “I am a rock. I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries.” The problem is that no person is self-made. So much happens in life to everyone and those events always involve other people. Without other people, what would be the purpose of dreaming big and improving things. Life is filled with community. We cannot escape it. We are created for it.

Another truth we alway forget is that we are limited beings, so by nature, we cannot completely do everything on our own. Just think of all the dumb things you have done: ran out of gas, forgot the most important deadline at work, left your cell phone near your three year old. We do dumb things and those things affect the nearby community and at times affect the entire world. The great thing about community is that someone is there to be your safety net. The people in your carpool notice the gas light on your console. The coworker asks how the report is coming. The wife snatches the phone before the kid can make the two hundred dollar amazon purchase. It’s amazing how community can make a better world.

Community can also make a terrible world too. Most history books make it seem like the holocaust just happened out of the blue. The reality was that it took a community experience many years to get to that day. So many events made Germans ripe for the suggestive words of Adolf Hitler. It did not take much for Hitler to gain overwhelming support for the slaughter of millions of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and handicapped people. Community needs a source of life and peace to prophetically negate death and destruction. Without that, the world eventually becomes an agent of death and destruction, the very things God is trying to get rid of.

The Early Church understood this balance between developing community and being influenced by events. The struggle in the book of Acts was between Jewish and Gentile believers. Jews viewed Gentiles like dogs and Gentiles did not see Jews as much better. When Christ kicked down the doors of segregation, people did not know what to do with that at first. It took the leadership of Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles to finally get the two groups eating with each other without a fight breaking out. The Church understood community very well. It was hardwired into their experience, but the events could have very easily been different. Had people not spoken up for the gentile believers against the jewish believers and sometimes vice versa, Christianity would have looked much different today.* But thankfully, the leaders made a better community. Scroll through the book of Acts and look for those moments where it seemed one group of people were complaining against the other. Now look at the creative acts of the Apostles to help bring those groups together in peace. We can thank our founding fathers of the Church, and even more so the Holy Spirit, for giving us one spirit and one love.

If we listen to the Spirit as the great men of the New Testament did, we can find a way to break down barriers in our community. We can start in the Church. There is a song that says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” I believe that is unarguably the point of faith in Christ. We have to have love for our fellow believers. If we do that, we can begin to show the same kindness to everyone in the world and build even more communities of love. I hope that every builds community like this around them just as the Early church did. I hope that we find that Christ is loving everyone and is leading us to love everyone.

*I understand that some of Church History revealed a failure on tearing down the barrier between Jew and Gentile, but it proves the point that inclusive community is a must in the Kingdom of God.