Jesus himself was a communist.” So how would that be for a political slogan. How would most who attend Christian services respond to this statement in church on Sunday morning! It is said this early church experiment was a failure. Miranda clearly points out a case can be made that the sermon on the mount was a failure…yet “its normative character remains intact”. (Though how well lived into is the sermon on the mount?) So it seems he is saying failure is not a reason to ignore either the sermon on the mount or the lived structure of the first century Jerusalem church.
Most interesting for me is that I was raised in one of the “biblical literalist” traditions. Yet this passage was dismissed as a failure. It was socialist or communist and utopian. It would work in a perfect world but not in a fallen world. No one I can remember ever said we should seriously study this aspect of the early church as something taught by those who walked with Jesus in the flesh. No one ever said that maybe we should take this seriously as just maybe, maybe Jesus actually was promoting something like this. It raises this prospect for me; is failure even relevant to learning to live into the “christian communism” Miranda is writing about.
Of course the difficult part is giving up our wealth, some of our individual choice and learning to work in a community setting that involves submitting to the whole. The submission also needs to be infused with divine grace so that all have what they need. I wonder if Miranda is hoping to redirect our focus so that we struggle with just what it means to live into this early christian style of community. The Acts account provides a very harsh “reality” check regarding the role of personal integrity as it relates to living in this early christian community.
Gollwitzer makes a salient point…if we think the first century church failed at “christian communism”…then find a better way to do it! If we say we want to follow Jesus then maybe we need to be more willing to set aside any of our current attitudes. Gollwitzer prods me to re-evaluate my perspectives and my lifestyle. I will need to put aside my biases and really study what Jesus was about and how that led to the Acts account of the life of the early followers of the way. And, am I willing to then live out what I learn from Jesus…even if it means failing?
On page 41 Gollwitzer provides us with words to meditate on. He addresses being ensnared. He addresses our excuses. He addresses sin and grace. Making it personal for me he dares to address coffee. He addresses how we benefit from government policies. He addresses freedom. He addresses and asks us to address the question of how can we carry on as before?
My very biased perspective is that Gollwitzer hits the proverbial nail on the head. If I try to reinterpret the life of the early church and make it comfortable I will be missing the point. It was important enough that our spiritual ancestors made sure it was passed down. At the least I want to be honest…I don’t yet live fully this way. I am very intrigued to learn to live into this type of communism and discover the freedom Gollwitzer points to as he concludes the essay.