Election Day and a Christian Compound
Some of my friends at church have a running joke about a compound in the woods. Each time the world around us seems to spin farther out of control, we joke about moving to the compound, stocking up on MREs and Mosin-Nagants, and waiting for the zombies. Days like today are the kind that incite such remarks. Tonight, America will learn who will serve as her next president; both candidates seem equally capable of running aground our 240-year democratic voyage. But when I pause from the exit polls and gallows humor, I find comfort in the example of our forebears — the Christians ones, not the American ones.
In one of the first descriptions of the brand new movement that came to be known as the church, Luke records, "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts…"
Every day? That seems excessive. Like cult-follower or compound-dweller excessive.
Luke goes on: "No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had."
They shared everything? Again, excessive.
What would make people behave like that? Let's not assume they were flush with either resource — time or money. Sure, people in our day seem busier with our time divided between so many audiences and so many media. But while we're busy tweeting and meeting, they were busy surviving. When you work with your hands (most of them did) in an agrarian society, the 40-hour work week is a dream. Savings accounts and investments were as foreign to the early church as austerity to Americans.
Nor let us surmise that these people met and shared because they simply liked each other. Jesus' little band of disciples included a zealot (think militant conservative with designs on a violent political uprising) and a tax collector (think liberal bureaucrat stealing from his countrymen). The Way was drawing hundreds of new followers and they weren't all perfect personality matches.
So why did they meet daily and share everything?
I think one reason is because they had to. They were outsiders. They were a fledgling band of crazies in a culture that was philosophically opposed to their way of life. Only one God? Sexual fidelity? Belief in resurrection? It wasn't just the meeting and sharing that their Roman and Jewish neighbors thought was weird. They had to rely on one another just to get by.
American Christians are more marginalized than ever before. There may come a time when we meet daily and share everything as a matter of survival, though such a day is much farther away than our alt-right neighbors prophecy.
In the meantime, our practice of staying connected and interdependent with one another must be born of discipline more than necessity. We must be intentional if we intend to mimic the early church. And we must do so against the opposition, not of our freedom, but of our comfort.