Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Can't live with you, can't live without you
It occurs to me that life would be much easier if we lived in community like we are meant to. Just from a house wife's point of view, and a less than brilliant one at that, imagine one person not having to be responsible for all the cooking, cleaning and childcare all at once. Heaven. Pun intended.
You would have constant entertainment, conversation and support. The financial, physical and emotional burdens would not lie too heavily on anyone person. You would never be lonely.
That's all in ideal community. Community the way I'm sure God intended it.
But we would hate it at the same time. By we, I'm mean western society. Why? Because we don't really like to share.
In theory we are taught to share as children, but it seems to be a case of do what I say, not what I do. Because if a child sees the adults accumulating mine, mine, mine, will they do any differently? Because at heart we are selfish creatures. I include myself completely in that assessment.
For example, I love it when we have all our friends around to our house for a meal. Everyone plays a part in cooking, setting the table, baby sitting and cleaning up afterwards. Because our friends are thoughtful and generous, it all runs like a well oiled machine and everyone gets to have a good time, with no-one feeling like they shouldered all the work.
Or when family comes to visit, and helps out with the washing and dishes while they are there. It feels great.
But if my friends or extended family then said they were moving in to my house permanently, that we were going to do this every day, that now my kitchen was ours, my computer was ours, my house was ours...well, I'd probably have a problem with that. And by probably, I mean definitely.
I think in western society, we are conditioned to think this is normal. Self-centredness is the status quo. No-one questions it because that's what everyone does. Whether that is the product of a capitalist society or the other way around, I don't know.
But it would come as a shock to us if we found ourselves in a different time or culture, to discover, actually not everyone is like this.
There have been in history and there are in the world now, cultures where there isn't so much importance placed on ownership. There isn't so much of a division between mine and yours. Where free, welcoming hospitality is the highest honour, rather than a select, guarded privilege. Where is more about what you give than what you can get for yourself.
For a society theoretically based on Christian values, we are shockingly bad at caring for other people above, or even equal to ourselves.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. (NIV)
There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust. (The Voice)
And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources... (The Message)
And all those who believed were together and everything they had was communal... (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
I don't know about you, but that sounds wonderful and terrifying at the same time.
We love the idea, yet most of us hate the reality.
We'd rather those verses read something like,
"They were together a lot having BBQs, and shared their time, money and stuff sometimes, but on their terms; then they went back to their own houses for some time out."
But no. They were together and shared everything. EVERYTHING.
We as the Church have a long way to go before our lives look anything like this. I have a long way to go. I long for it and I run from it in equal measure.
But the good news?
The people of the early New Testament church weren't just extraordinarily good people. They had something that we need more of.
Something - someone - who came like the sound of a rushing wind, and like tongues of flame, and turned their lives upside down.
We aren't just called to live a certain way and then left to our own devices. Jesus actually gave us the power to put it into action. And once we learn to do that, that's when we will start to see the kingdom of God...heaven on earth.