Sunday’s lesson from Acts presents a radical economic vision. One that is certainly far from our reality today. (Click here to read the passage.)
All things held in common? No private possessions? Lands and houses sold and the money given away? Seriously?
Before simply dismissing this passage, or moving into a hippie commune, there are a couple of things to remember. First, this describes the situation very early in the life of the church. At that time, the disciples expected Jesus’ return to be very soon, certainly within their lifetimes and probably within a matter of a few years or less.
This assumption, of course, has proven to be false and we find little evidence in the other writings of the New Testament that this economic model was broadly practiced or held for an extended time. The fact that it was done for a short time in the earliest church does not mean that we are to follow this pattern now and the church has never imposed this standard except in very restricted settings for those specially called (like monasteries and convents).
So, what are we to learn from this? First, we have a compelling and dramatic call to care for one another in radical ways that go far beyond what the world would consider sensible. Surely, this is to go beyond wishing people well and offering to pray for them. We are to live sacrificially in order that we might serve others.
Secondly, there is an expectation that the church will be a radical community. We are expected to live unlike others. I sometimes wonder if the greatest failure of the church is not church fights, squabbles over doctrine or the periodic and public moral failures of church leaders, but the fact that the Christian community is not, by and large, radically different than the rest of the world around us.
Of course, the challenge is putting feet on these ideas. I don’t think there is a simple formula, but whatever it is that we are called to as a radical community, I’m pretty confident we’re not there yet!
This column appeared in the April 8, 2018 issue. Click here to read the full issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current issue.